Watson Theory

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Jeffrey Hinebaugh, Denise King, Stephanie Newman, CHI Obed, Maria Gumucio-Powell NUR/403
May 21, 2012
Sandy Ulmer RN, PHN, MSN

The success of a professional nurse starts with formal education (Moore, 2010). A nurse’s formal education includes learning, understanding and applying nursing theory. The use of nursing theory facilitates, “evidence-based practice, nursing inquiry, nursing best practice, and translation to practice” (Alligood, 2010, p11). Nursing theory defines the role of the nurse within interdisciplinary teams. The perspective and contributions of the nurse within this team is unique (Moore, 2010). Nursing theory began with the work of Florence Nightingale in 1846. Other writers have followed such as Levine, Orem, Orlando and Watson. Although nursing theories differ in focus and context, they serve to provide tools to standardize and enhance facilitation of the practice of nursing. This affords nurse the opportunity to choose the theory that provides the best fit for their area of practice. For the purpose of this writing, the focus is on Jean Watson, her philosophy of the science of caring, and the application of her theory in patient care. This writing reviews Watsons’ background, theory and the application of her theory within the nurse-patient interaction.

Jean Watson was born in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia in the 1940s. She graduated from the Lewis Gale School of Nursing in 1961, and then continued her nursing studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She earned her bachelor's degree in 1964, a Master's degree in psychiatric and mental health nursing in 1966, and a Ph.D. in educational psychology and counseling in 1973. She served as Dean of Nursing at the University Health Sciences Center and was the President of the National League for Nursing. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

Her books include The Philosophy and Science of Caring, which was published in 2008. She currently holds an endowed chair at the University of Colorado, and in 2008, she created the Watson Caring Science Institute to help spread her nursing theory and ideas.

Watson has six honorary degrees, including an International Honorary Doctorate from the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada in 2003, and an Honorary Doctor of Sciences in Nursing from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada in 2010. Watson’s theories had four major concepts, and are listed below: Human: The concept states: A valued person in and of him or herself to be cared for, respected, nurtured, understood and assisted; in general a philosophical view of a person as a fully functional integrated self. He, human is viewed as greater than and different from, the sum of his or her parts. Health: Watson adds three elements to the WHO definition of health. The first is a high level of overall physical, mental and social functioning. The second is a general adaptive-maintenance level of daily functioning. And the third is the absence of illness (or the presence of efforts that leads its absence). Environment/society: According to Watson, caring (and nursing) has existed in every society since its origins. A caring attitude is not transmitted from generation to generation but instilled within. It is transmitted by the culture of the profession as a unique way of coping with its environment as conditions change. Nursing: Nursing is concerned with promoting health, preventing illness, caring for the sick and restoring health. It is the focus on health promotion and treatment of disease. Jean Watson believes that holistic health care is central to the practice of caring in nursing. Watson ultimately defines nursing as: “A human science of persons and human health-illness experiences that are mediated by professional, personal, scientific, esthetic and ethical human transactions” (Watson, 2001).

According to Watson, the major...
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