Theory Testing in Nursing Research

Theory Testing in Nursing Research

Lyneham, Parkinson and Denholm (2008) presents the results of a study to describe Benner’s practice development theory within the nursing context, with focus being on the expert level. It notes that the expert level is characterized by intuition and can be presented in three phases. The first phase begins with cognitive intuition in which the expert nurse uses subconscious thought processes that can be rationalized in hindsight. The second phase is transitional intuition whereby the expert nurses incorporates subconscious behavior into professional awareness. The final phase is embodied intuition, whereby the expert nurse no longer questions his or her intuition and trusts it to present the best possible decision. Theory Testing in Nursing Research These sentiments validate the presence of expert level nurses as well as their characterization through their use of intuition to guide decision making within clinical practice (Lyneham, Parkinson & Denholm, 2008; Smith & Parker, 2015). Wheeler (2014) expresses similar sentiments in noting that intuition is a logical step that supports practice development from a novice to an expert, fostering clinical curiosity, research and reflection as factors of practice development. As a result, it can be argued that nursing practitioners undergo a time-based practice development progression that includes an expert level of practice characterized by the use of intuition in clinical decision-making. Theory Testing in Nursing Research.


The research question is: Does intuition characterize expert level nursing practitioners’ decision-making approaches within the practice environment? (Lyneham, Parkinson & Denholm, 2008).

The aim of the study is to: explore the experience of intuition in emergency nursing in relation to Benner’s fifth stage of practice development, ‘the expert practitioner’ (Lyneham, Parkinson & Denholm, 2008).

The research recruited fourteen participants with emergency nursing experience from Australia. Each of the participants had a minimum of five years’ experience providing emergency nursing services (Lyneham, Parkinson & Denholm, 2008). Theory Testing in Nursing Research.

The results of the study noted that the expert level of nursing as identified by Benner should be further divided into three distinct stages based on use of intuition. The three stages are cognitive intuition, transitional intuition and embodied intuition (Lyneham, Parkinson & Denholm, 2008).

The theory is significant in validating nursing professional development through progressive stages that are based on experience, knowledge and skills. The specific concept of the theory applied in the research study is that with extensive practice and knowledge, routine decisions become common practice among emergency nurses so that they become more trusting of their first impression when making decisions. Theory Testing in Nursing Research. The theory can be linked to the research when showing how the use of intuition becomes more prevalent through increased practice among expert nurses. Besides that, it validates the existence of experts among nursing practitioners through linking the stage to experience (Lyneham, Parkinson & Denholm, 2008).


Lyneham, J., Parkinson, C. & Denholm, C. (2008). Explicating Benner’s concept of expert practice: intuition in emergency nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 64(4), 380–387.

Smith, M. & Parker, M. (2015). Nursing theories and nursing practice (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis Company.

Wheeler, K. (Eds.). (2014). Psychotherapy for the advanced practice psychiatric nurse: a how-to guide for evidence-based practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company. Theory Testing in Nursing Research.

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