As I sat at the busy nurse’s station in the ICU, I tried to focus on my charting. It had been a long shift, complicated by a critically ill patient whose vitals had been touch and go all day long. I was tired, I was drained, and I was looking forward to a hot bath as soon as I got home from my 12-hour day.
But I couldn’t focus, and I felt restless as I tried to recall the details from my day for my notes.
I felt that something was wrong, deep in the pit of my stomach, but I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly. I gazed around at the nurse’s station and saw that all seemed in order. My co-workers hustled from room to room, doctors milled around with charts giving orders, and the food services tech had begun clearing dinner trays. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary but something nagged at me.
I continued to try to complete my work until a voice in my head told me to look at the monitors in front of me immediately. And I knew.
My eyes met the screen, and I saw one of the monitored patient’s heart rate flatline. The patient, not assigned to me, had gone into cardiac arrest literally right before my eyes. I yelled for the clerk to call a code, took off down the hall, and started CPR on the arresting patient. When it was all said and done, the patient survived and I was grateful that I had listened to my instincts.
As any ICU nurse will tell you, that ominous feeling is intuition, and I’ve learned over the years to trust my gut.
And my intuition skills grew even more astute when I became a mother.
How many times have you stopped in your kitchen only to realize it’s too quiet? Usually, that means someone is finger painting your couch with diaper poop or doing laundry in the toilet, right? And there’s a reason the phrase “A mother knows” exists because moms seem to know everything, almost before it happens. Ask any mom or woman you know and they will undoubtedly recount a story of a time when they just knew disaster was going to strike, and then it did.
Women, on the whole, are more observant, and let’s face it: We notice shit men don’t see. Women know all the things, and as my mother is fond of saying, sometimes we really do have eyes in the back of our head.
Intuition is a real phenomenon.
Intuition, or the act of being able to understand something immediately without conscious reasoning, is also described as a gut feeling. Simply put, there are often times where we are lead to decisions simply because we feel compelled to make a choice based on a feeling. And more and more research is being done to prove that the nervous feeling you get when you hear the phone ring and know it’s bad news is rooted in scientific fact.
In fact, even the U.S. military is researching how troops can improve their intuition and gut feelings to more effectively fight, and stay safe, in combat.
Basically, science is working to confirm that the “Spidey sense” is real.
In a recent study by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, scientists at Amen Clinics, using fancy technology called SPECT, were able to prove that women “may exhibit more empathy, intuition, collaboration, self-control, and appropriate concern because of increased blood flow to the brain.” They evaluated 46,000 studies on 25,000 men and women with both healthy brains and brains with varying degrees of psychiatric conditions. The scientists analyzed 128 areas on participants at rest and during concentrated tasks.
Turns out, women have more blood flow to the brain, particularly the centers of the brain that control emotions, mood, anxiety and depression. Basically, in the parts of the brain that allow us to know things ahead of time and feel things deeply, women have more brain activity and blood supply. In short, science says women simply know everything sooner than men do (well, not exactly, but that’s what I’m telling my husband from now on).
Women don’t need brain doctors to confirm that we are fortune-tellers, but it’s nice that science backs us up now. And scientific evidence lends credibility to all mothers when we tell our children with authority that we know they will steal that cookie the minute we leave the room.
Now, if we could just get scientists to tell us how to harness our gut feelings into being able to win the lottery and predict what the hot toy will be for Christmas, we’d be golden.