I am remarkably intuitive. I am also a scientist. Are these two things oil and water for a physician? Well, one of my favorite foods is fresh greens with mustard vinaigrette. So – yes – I think they can coexist peacefully.
True for you too?👇🏼 I see you 👀
Now here’s the thing. Having this skill and being in clinical medicine is awkward because no one talks about it. Most everyone has had an unusual aha moment. That moment when goosebumps arrive or an internal voice tells you to “call the patient back” or add one more test that turned out to be life-saving. But we don’t talk about it for fear of being judged.
It was not taught in the standardized patient workshops in medical school. And while it is essential to learn basic skills, I realized that clinical wisdom includes intuition as I moved further in my career.
So I got curious one day and searched PubMed on the neuroscience of intuition. I’m a nerd like that. As you might imagine, a paucity of information existed around the clinical decision process for physicians; however, the nursing journals had hundreds of articles exploring it. There is a divergent conversation here around gender, but I’ll save that for another day.
However, the literature was not devoid of research on this subject. One study from Horr et al. noted that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is thought to be crucial to intuitive processes, but its specific role has remained unclear. Their research suggested that the (left) OFC activation is linked to an initial feeling of “coherence” that guides subsequent decisions and actions.
Horr describes that “intuitive decisions are made immediately, without conscious, reasoned thought. They are experienced as decisions based on hunches that cannot be explicitly described but, nevertheless, guide subsequent action.”
Where did I learn how to manage it?
When I took off 3 years from clinical practice to study with Dr. Vasant Lad, I finally understood what was happening. So while we are still working on the how in modern science, I found that Ayurveda holds profound wisdom on caring for intuition and cultivating it.