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  • 12 April 2023
  • 9 min read

Non-Linear Brains

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    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
    • Matt Farrah
    • Laura Bosworth
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  • 1260
“Having a non-linear brain should be supported and recognized more within our nursing community. The creativity of non-linear thinking allows nurses to think outside of the box and develop new ways of problem solving.”

In this informative video, Laura discusses the difference between linear and non-linear thought processes and shares her advice on navigating the nursing profession with a non-linear brain, from handovers to daily tasks.

Hi, my name's Laura and I'm a Student Nurse. Today's video is about non-linear brains and how we can support people who experience non-linear ways of thinking. For example, by working with notes.

Linear And Non-Linear Thinking

It's common to hear about the two ways of thinking, linear and non-linear.

Linear ways of thinking involve using the left-hand side of the brain to produce a structured and rational thought processes. This allows you to follow structured thoughts and working methods that move in a more direct straight line.

For example, when completing a task, linear brains can achieve a task from start to finish with straightforward steps.

However, in contrast, non-linear thinking is defined as using the right-hand side of the brain to generate thought processes. As a result, more creative, but non-logical ways of thinking occur. Non-linear thoughts can present in many ways and often lead to the thinker going back and forth or side to side with their ways of thinking and ideas.

One example is when completing tasks, our brains can struggle to follow a set of steps as we have our tendency to jump between them and make random connections. This thought process is quite similar to brainstorming where thoughts flow quite freely, allowing more diverse ways of applying logic to situations.

When this thought process is given the right tools and support, creative and new ways of doing things can flourish.

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What Can Happen when Non-Linear Thinking Is Unsupported

Within our nursing role, there are many situations where unsupported non-linear thinking can hinder our work.

For example, during a handover, note-taking and information processing skills are required. When you’re a non-linear thinker, it can be hard work to meticulously summarize rapid information that's given to us in quite a linear format. And because handover is so structured and fast-paced, when a non-linear brain makes a connection to something completely different, it's quite easy to lose our place, which causes a lack of focus on the information being given to us and leads room for mistakes to be made.

When you get lost in a handover, asking for something to be repeated can get quite frustrating for other staff members. I often struggle to speak up and go, "Can you repeat that?" because I don't want to feel like a hindrance. What I tend to do is after a handover, I will ask someone if I can have their handover and just copy what they've wrote, but obviously that might not have the relevant information from my role, especially if it's like off a HCA or something like that.

Supporting Non-Linear Brains With A Handover

So how can a non-linear brain be supported in this situation?

For non-linear brains, working with notes provides us with official guide to what is going on, reminding us of the tasks that we need to complete and how we're going to achieve these tasks. During a handover, having a written copy on paper is very important as it allows us to draw and scribble down random thoughts.

I find using different colors helpful as it can help me to organize my thoughts more quickly as I make different connections and have random ideas. However, this means it takes me longer to process the information being given to me during a handover. So other staff can support non-linear thinking by using a slower pace during handover.

It feels like handover is quite often rushed and there normally isn't a need to rush handover. So, by going slower, you're given us more time to process that information, meaning we won't have to ask for things to be repeated as often, meaning you then don't have the frustration and that vicious loop is being broken.

By slowing down, you are also able to speak more clearly, which means we can process that information faster because we're not trying to understand what you're saying as you're talking quickly. It also means that if you're going slower, you can pause between patients. Even if it's just like a five, ten second pause. It just enables our brains to go, "Right, we're finished with patient A. Pause. Now we're going on to patient B." It just gives us that time to make that systematic step.

Having a non-linear brain should be supported and recognized more within our nursing community. The creativity of non-linear thinking allows nurses to think outside of the box and develop new ways of problem solving.

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Working With Notes

So where else can working with notes be helpful within our nursing role?

I find working with notes is helpful for remembering tasks and structure in my day. During my day or any of our days, an awful lot is going on and it can be hard keeping a mental note of who is what, where is where, what is what. There's just too much. Having so much going on inside our head creates a lot of room for us to jump ahead with tasks. I have a tendency to start a task, get distracted, start something else, leave that task unfinished, forget it exists, and then at the end of the day go, "Oh,"

Working with notes provides me with a lifeline to organize tasks and thoughts that go from a jumble inside my head into a somewhat organized list. And then having it written down on a piece of paper means as soon as something pops into my head, I can jot it straight down and it's not going to get forgotten. It's not going to get missed.

So having a list, categories, or plan of action serves as a visual reminder of what needs doing and how it can be done. This gives me room to add some new thoughts to the list when I gain new tasks and it allows me to cross off tasks that are already completed so that I don't jump backwards because I will forget what I've already done. And it means that I also don't accidentally forget something that I've still got to do. I can find it really hard to remember everything that I needed to do during the day. So having written notes all the time is extremely helpful.

Having notes on patient doors also allows me to organize when my obs are due and when the frequency of obs need changing, because at the moment I'm on a surgical ward placement. When patients come in, we go from so many half-hourlies to hourlies to two-hourlies. So having written notes everywhere means I can just tick off and I know exactly where I am. Nothing's going to be missed. Everything's somewhat organized, and if something changes, I can just jot it straight down.

Regroup And Reorganize

I also think that especially in a busy ward where we've got a high patient turnover, having a handover halfway through the day is really helpful for just providing a regroup and reorganize of where we're at and where we're going. I think it's a really good grounding point to make sure that everyone is up to date with who's what and who's where, just in case we have missed something or forgotten something or gotten lost elsewhere.

Having a non-linear brain should be supported and recognized more within our nursing community. The creativity of non-linear thinking allows nurses to think outside of the box and develop new ways of problem solving.

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Use Post-It Notes To Capture Ideas And Collaborate

Another method of support in non-linear thinking is through Post-It notes, an item that is found pretty much in every nursing setting.

With Post-it notes, random thoughts or ideas can be subtly jotted down and placed to one side for later. This removes the distraction in your mind whilst also capturing that idea. So, using Post-it notes allows us to create a non-linear narrative that we can rearrange; as we get new thoughts or new tasks or new ideas, we can reorganize our thoughts using the Post-It notes. Having this free form structure means we can reorder things according to priority or time.

Through Post-it notes, we can easily collaborate with one another as someone else can contribute their thoughts and put it down, which I think is quite important in nursing because we are always having to work as a team for one another.

These are just a couple of ways that linear thoughts can be supported.

I hope this has been informative and possibly given some non-linear thinking people a couple of ideas on how they can move forward with their ways of thinking.

Thank you for watching.

About the author

Hi I’m Laura and I’m a student nurse studying adult nursing. I have recently joined the nurses.co.uk team and look forward to creating content in the coming months. I have an interest in learning disabilities and an amazing opportunity to complete an international elective in summer.

    • Mat Martin
    • Richard Gill
    • Matt Farrah
    • Laura Bosworth
  • 0
  • 1260

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