Nursing theory is at the heart of the nursing practice. The many different theories that now exist have been developed from scientific evidence and valid data to create frameworks and provide various strategies and approaches for patient care. But these theories are about much more than just big ideas — nursing theory helps to ensure that nursing carves out its own niche in the big, evolving world of healthcare providers.
As Marlaine Smith and Marilyn Parker wrote in their book, Nursing Theories, and Nursing Practice, “Nursing theories … regardless of complexity or abstraction, reflect phenomena central to the discipline and should be used by nurses to frame their thinking, action, and being in the world. As guides, nursing theories are practical in nature and facilitate communication with those we serve, as well as with colleagues, students, and others practicing in health-related services.”
Nursing theories can also be viewed as patterns to direct thinking about nursing.
“All nurses are guided by some implicit or explicit theory or pattern of thinking as they care for their patients,” Parker and Smith wrote. “Too often, this pattern of thinking is implicit and is colored by the lens of diseases, diagnoses, and treatments. This does not reflect practice from the disciplinary perspective of nursing. The major reason for the development and study of nursing theory is to improve nursing practice and, therefore, the health and quality of life of those we serve.”
Ohio University’s online MSN program offers a robust curriculum that can enable nurse educators to assimilate nursing theory and evidence-based practice into their efforts to prepare the next generation of nursing professionals.
The Importance of Nursing Theory for Nurse Education
Prior to the development of nursing theories, nursing was seen as a task-oriented occupation, and nurses were trained by doctors. Today, nursing theory serves as the foundation of nursing. It is shaping the field in important ways, according to NurseLabs.com, because it:
- Helps nurses to understand their purpose and role in the healthcare setting
- Guides knowledge development
- Directs education, research, and practice
- Recognizes what should set the foundation of practice by explicitly describing nursing
- Serves as a rationale or scientific reason for nursing interventions and give nurses the knowledge base necessary for acting and responding appropriately in nursing care situations
- Provides the foundations of nursing practice
- Indicates in which direction nursing should develop in the future
- Gives nurses a sense of identity
- Helps patients, managers, and other healthcare professionals to acknowledge and understand the unique contribution that nurses make to healthcare service
- Prepares the nurses to reflect on the assumptions and question the values in nursing, thus further defining nursing and increasing knowledge base
- Allows the nursing profession to maintain and preserve its professional limits and boundaries
A Look at Grand Nursing Theories
A grand theory is just what it sounds like: compared to middle-range and practical theories, grand theories offer a sweeping overview of the nature and goals of professional nursing.
As CareerTrend.com notes, grand theories “are general concepts that pertain to the overall nature and goals of professional nursing. A grand theory, and there are many, is a synthesis of scholarly research, professional experience, and insights from theoretical pioneers (such as Florence Nightingale).”
One well-known grand nursing theory was formulated by Dorothea Orem in the 1950s, which centers around the individual’s ability to practice self-care. Orem’s theory is divided into self-care, self-care deficit, and nursing systems.
Another grand theory, the Roy Adaptation Model, was put forth by Callista Roy in 1976, and states that the purpose of nursing is essentially to increase life expectancy. In an online article for NurseLabs, author Angelo Gonzalez writes that in Roy’s theory, “nurses are facilitators of adaptation. They assess the patient’s behaviors for adaptation, promote positive adaptation by enhancing environment interactions and helping patients react positively to stimuli. Nurses eliminate ineffective coping mechanisms and eventually lead to better outcomes. Adaptation is the ‘process and outcome whereby thinking and feeling persons as individuals or in groups use conscious awareness and choice to create human and environmental integration.’”
Virginia Henderson, often called the “first lady of nursing,” developed a grand theory of nursing in the early 20th century. It defined the role of nurses in this way, according to the website Nursing Theory: “The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will, or knowledge.”
Nurselabs.com details other significant theorists and their concepts, including:
- Ida Jean Orlando, who “emphasized the reciprocal relationship between patient and nurse and viewed the professional function of nursing as finding out and meeting the patient’s immediate need for help”
- Hildegard Peplau, whose Theory of Interpersonal Relations emphasized the nurse-client relationship as the foundation of nursing practice
- Faye Abdellah, whose “Typology of 21 Nursing Problems” “shifted the focus of nursing from a disease-centered approach to a patient-centered approach”
- Jean Watson, who developed the philosophy of caring, which “highlighted humanistic aspects of nursing as they intertwine with scientific knowledge and nursing practice”
Nursing theory is an essential component of any level of nursing education. For nurses advancing their education, the higher level of reading and analysis required by an MSN curriculum offers the opportunity to examine more complex concepts of nursing theory alongside the practical experience they have already gained. Those who aspire to become nurse educators can build on nursing theories to train students and have an impact on the future of nursing.
Ohio University’s Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program
Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program offers targeted instruction in nursing education as well as other areas of the nursing field. Potential MSN degree benefits are numerous, including better pay and expanded career options.
For more information about Ohio University’s online MSN program, visit the program page today.
DocShare, “Nursing Theories, and Nursing Practice”
Nurse Labs, “Nursing Theories and Theorists”
Career Trend, “Barriers to Applying a Nursing Theory”
Nurse Labs, “Sister Callista Roy’s Adaptation Model”
Nursing Theory, “Virginia Henderson, Nursing Theorist”
Nurselabs.com, “A Guide to Nursing Theories”