Nursing Theory: Explanation and Relevance to Nursing Practices Katherine Lott
Azusa Pacific University
Theoretical Foundations for Nursing
May 20, 2009
Merriam Webster defines the word "theory" as "a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action." There are various categories of theories accepted and practiced throughout the world and throughout professional practices today. One example of a type of theory is a nursing theory. However, some might not be fully aware of what a nursing theory entails, examples of such, and the relevance of nursing theories. This paper will explain these matters.
What is a nursing theory? A nursing theory is an expression that has arose from a philosophical perspective that explains some phenomena. Overall, it is used to describe the accumulation of knowledge that is used to support nursing practice. It incorporates experiments and research to define nursing and nursing practice; furthermore, it gives reason to the accepted principles that form the basis for practice, and goals and functions of nursing (Wesley, 1995). In essence, a nursing theory enables understanding of what, how, and why nurses continue to practice.
What is the origin of a nursing theory? The first theorist to clearly articulate a role of nurses was Florence Nightingale. Before she developed her nursing theory, the primary role of the nurse was to merely care of the patient as prescribed by the doctor's orders. Nightingale was able to expand the nursing profession making it distinct from the medical profession. Her first theories were developed and published in a book titled Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not in 1859. Through Florence Nightingale's original work, nurses realized that simply treating patients based upon their disease was not a satisfactory way of attending patient care, and, rather, they should be making a holistic assessment (Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 2009).
At this point the phrase "nursing theory" has been described and a history of it has been presented; however, there are several different nursing theories that are used today. This paper will discuss a few common theories and their practices. One example of a nursing theory would be one Florence Nightingale created titled Environmental Theory. This was used to define nursing as "the act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist him in his recovery." It focuses on changing and manipulating the environment in order to put the patient in the best possible conditions for nature to act. Nursing theory has evolved on a number of levels in the past fifty years. While it is true that Florence Nightingale is commonly recognized and accepted as the founder of modern nursing, she was simply able to provide the first step towards developing nursing into the holistic profession it is today. There are numerous theories and models of nursing that have developed after her time. One such example of these theories is one that was manufactured by Dorothea Orem and named the Self-Care Theory. She was able to use this theory to define nursing as, "the act of assisting others in the provision and management of self-care to maintain/improve human functioning at home level of effectiveness." This theory focuses on activities that adult individuals perform on their own behalf to maintain life, health and well-being. Lastly, Hildegard Peplau used her Interpersonal Relations Theory to say that nursing is a "maturing force and an educative instrument." In fact, she defined nursing using her theory as, "an interpersonal process of therapeutic interactions between an Individual who is sick or in need of health services and a nurse especially educated to recognize, respond to the need for help (Parker, 2006)."
A few examples of nursing theories have been discussed; however the question of why these theories are relevant in nursing...