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Importance of Nursing Theory

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Nursing theory provides the foundation of nursing practice. It helps us nurses to further generate knowledge in what we know now in our profession and indicate what direction should our scope and practice develop in the future. Through nursing theory, nurses are empowered to care for their patients with a theoretical framework giving clarity and expectations of practice that belong specifically to the nursing profession. It was perceived decades ago that nurses were handmaids to the physician and that is was solely a task-oriented profession. This was before nursing theories emerged. With the shift of it being able to attain the status of being an independent profession, nursing theories now serve as its backbone. It is imperative that we incorporate nursing theories in our daily practice because it serves as our guidelines in making the best clinical decisions which in turn provide better patient outcomes. This paper will further explain the importance of nursing theory in practice and discuss Jean Watson’s Theory of Human Caring. Watson considered caring as the basis for nursing. She believed that nurses and patients had a dependent relationship on one another and that the nurse not only heals the patient but that the patient can help heal the nurse as well (Rina, Mayumi and Ruri, 2015). Furthermore, I will also discuss and provide examples of Watson’s theory and how it applies to the professional practice of the Family Nurse Practitioner.

Importance of Nursing Theory

        As stated in the introduction, nursing theory is the fundamental aspect of nursing. It is through nursing theories and its development over the years that Nursing has been validated to be an independent profession, separate from medicine.  Early nursing education was focused on being obedient to the physicians, following orders and never to question it. It was Florence Nightingale that laid out the groundwork to help propel nurses to have autonomy, advocate for patients and the profession itself. She also believed that nursing should be developed, taught and managed by nurses (Selanders & Crane, 2012). Her beliefs and theories are the reason why we have nursing curriculums and how they have progressed the way we are. However, in the undergraduate level, not much emphasis is placed on nursing theories as compared to other subject matters like for example, evidence-based practice. This is the reason why, on a graduate level, we must fully understand theory and incorporate its importance and application to our practice in order to better prepare master’s degree level nurses in whichever track they choose. As stated in the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the core curriculum of a master’s program should incorporate theories that will help prepare a graduate develop sound clinical decision making skills and ultimately be responsible and hold accountability in the management of client problems.

        One concern regarding the use of nursing theory within the profession is that there are a lot of nursing theories that has been established and some maybe too vague. Nursing theories vary in scope and in their level of abstraction. There are grand theories and middle range theories. One must be able to distinguish the difference of both. In continuing the efforts of establishing nursing as an independent profession, the focus must remain on concentrating its efforts in developing middle range theories, which enable to tie in all three areas – theory, research and practice.

Summary of Watson’s Theory of Human Caring

        Jean Watson’s Theory of Human Caring was developed in the 1970’s while she was involved in teaching at the University of Colorado. The initial focus was to distinctly recognize Nursing as a profession with its own unique knowledge, practices and values. Over the years, it has reached continued advancements and recognition with the latest edition being published in 2011.  Watson wanted to exemplify that caring was the central core of the nursing profession. While acknowledging that the main focus of medicine is to cure and that nursing had a role in carrying out this goal, Watson’s theory wanted to show that caring for the sick involved a nurse-patient relationship that entailed a humanistic and holistic side of it.

        From this thought process, Watson further developed the early theory of 10 carative factors which has now evolved into Ten Clinical Caritas Processes. These processes were thought to be beneficial to nurses to fully engage in the caring concept regardless of specialty area and in any given moment. The concepts describe practicing loving kindness, being present in the moment, letting go of one’s own bias, creating and sustaining a healthy relationship within the environment. The notion of the caring caritas is that all life is interconnected and that it is not possible to provide genuine care to another without first being able to care for oneself (Sitzman, 2007).



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