Blinking: The Art of Clinical Judgment?

By Fitzpatrick, Joyce J. | Nursing Education Perspectives, January-February 2006 | Go to article overview

Blinking: The Art of Clinical Judgment?


Fitzpatrick, Joyce J., Nursing Education Perspectives


ALTHOUGH I FEEL AS IF I AM THE LAST SEMI-INTELLECTUAL to have read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (1), I picked it up shortly after it was first published early in 2005. My immediate reaction to this new book by the acclaimed author of The Tipping Point (2) was to relate the contents to what we, as nurse educators, do every day: teach students how to integrate their clinical judgment with the art of nursing. But I honestly could not figure out whether Gladwell's main thesis described the art of nursing or expert judgment. Simply stated, his thesis is that many of us "thin-slice" information, filtering the most important, but the very few, factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

SO, I DID WHAT MANY OF YOU WOULD HAVE DONE. I found others in my academic world who had read Blink, and asked their opinions about how Gladwell's ideas related to what we were trying to teach our health professional students--our nurses, physicians, and public health practitioners. Interestingly, it was harder for the scientists among us to understand how they personally might use the process of blinking, for they were accustomed to studying every detail under the actual or hypothetical microscope. They viewed their mission as one that did not discount even the most minute finding or bit of information, as that could be the next scientific breakthrough.

THE CLINICIANS AND CLINICAL EDUCATORS, HOWEVER, GOT IT. They understood immediately how they could move from a vast array of facts, figures, lab results, and snippets of interpersonal communications with their patients to arrive at a decision, very quickly, without appearing to be thinking. …

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