Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business

Nurses Trust Your Gut!

I’ve always known that your gut plays a huge role in helping you be successful as a nurse.

Take the case of a nurse who was working with a patient who had a cervical spine fusion the previous day.  He complained of having a raspy voice and trouble swallowing.  His vital signs were all normal.  The nurse knew in her gut that something was wrong.  Both the raspy voice and trouble swallowing were expected symptoms after a cervical spine surgery.

The nurse called the doctor and said that she was not sure of what the patient’s problem was, “but my gut tells me that something is wrong.”  She asked the physician to double-check to make sure the patient was OK.

The doctor came in, examined the patient, confirmed her concern and found the patient had an epidural hematoma.  The patient was taken back to surgery to remove the hematoma.

This nurse saved the patient’s life by trusting her gut and getting a second opinion rather than just relying on vital signs and objective measures to know something was wrong.

According to The Journal of American Medical Informatics Association, a study was done at the Mayo Clinic using a 5-point rating system.  100 nursing professionals were asked to predict each of the patients for a potential decline within the next 24 hours.

“To confirm the accuracy, a separate group of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners were asked the same question during the bedside assessment and the result was that of the 492 cases in which nurses rated a high level of worry, enough to call for medical attention, 77% were backed up by the reviewers.”

Seventy nine percent (79%) of the nurses with more than 1 year of experience were significantly more accurate as opposed to 68% of nurses with less than 1 year of experience on the job.

What is interesting about this study is that (1) the more experienced the nurse, the better the patient’s outcome and (2) this is the first measure of the accuracy of nurses’ judgment to direct or predict acute inpatient deterioration.

Therefore, nurses using their gut is probably one of the most important factors in medicine which contributes to their clinical judgment.

If you know my work, you know I have the GIFTS system.  GIFTS is an acronym for Giving, Integrity, Focus and Follow Through, Trust and Source.  And now we have validation that the T for trusting your gut works.

Does your gut help you in your practice?  Do you listen to your gut?

I would love to hear stories of how intuition has served you and your patients.



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