Intuition in Medicine

Some of the most intuitive physicians in medicine are emergency and urgent care docs. I remember one physician (Erik) recounting a “20 something” woman who came into the ER complaining of belly pain. All the tests were coming back negative, yet he had an uneasy feeling he refused to ignore. Something was seriously wrong. He wasn’t sure how he knew it, but he did. Insisting on a CT scan despite push back from administration, Erik knew he risked disciplinary action. Hours later the radiologist report came in. A serious and aggressive kidney tumor had been found. So what was it that informed Erik? Some people would write this off as luck or coincidence, but it happens far too often for that to be the case. After years of witnessing, ER docs, Servicemen and women, Police and Firefighters, I notice consistent patterns.

Pattern #1: These individuals have mastered the art of OBSERVATION. They take their time and notice the details.

Pattern #2: They compare and contrast what “their gut,” “the little voice in their head,” or other internal guidance says vs. what standard protocols demand.

Pattern #3: They keep track of their intuitive “wins” and use this track record to support current decisions.

Pattern #4: To these individuals, the risk of playing it safe far outweighs the risk of getting it wrong! They are risk takers.

Pattern #5: They spend time cultivating what they know. Animals have instincts, people have intuition. I think of intuition as that reservoir of knowledge that contains what I’ve gleaned from others, what I have acquired through direct experience and what I pick up through my senses.

Pattern #6: These intuitive types make decisions quickly. They don’t second guess themselves. They trust what they know!

If you want to cultivate your intuition, develop your observation skills using ALL 5 senses. Listen to your gut. Pay attention to all the times you aren’t surprised by the test results and already “knew” what the outcome would be. Don’t dismiss what you intuitively know…..fuel it.

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