Undertanding the Works of Nursing Theorists

Theories of Nursing
  • Theory is "an internally consistent group of relational statements (concepts, definitions and propositions) that present a systematic view about a phenomenon and which is useful for description, explanation, prediction and control".
  • Theories provide a framework for selecting and organizing information:
    • What to ask
    • What to observe
    • What to focus on
    • What to think about
  • Nursing theory is an organized and systematic articulation of a set of statements related to questions in the discipline of nursing.
Uses of Nursing Theory
  • Define relationships among the variables of a given field of inquiry
  • Guide research, practice and communication
  • Allow the prediction of the consequences of care
  • Allow the prediction of a range of patient responses
Levels of Theory
There are four levels of theory
  • Metatheory
  • Grand Theory
  • Middle Range Theory
  • Practice Theory
Types of Theory
In nursing there are four types of theories:
  • Needs
  • Interaction
  • Outcome
  • Humanistic
Value of theory
  • Enhances understanding and explanation for events
  • Influence our behavior.
  • Makes to think differently about a problem or a situation
  • Helps to try new approaches or altering behavior.
  • We can gain a new perspective of events
  • Basis for challenge of its speculative tenets or propositions
  • Challenges subsequent discovery of new ideas or knowledge that might explain and predict events not yet understood
In practice
  • Assist nurses to describe, explain, and predict everyday experiences.
  • Serve to guide assessment, intervention, and evaluation of nursing care.
  • Provide a rationale for collecting reliable and valid data about the health status of clients.
  • Help to establish criteria to measure the quality of nursing care
  • Help build a common nursing terminology.
  • Enhance autonomy of nursing by defining its own independent functions.
In education
  • Provide a general focus for curriculum design.
  • Guide curricular decision making
In research
  • Offer a framework for generating knowledge and new ideas.
  • Assist in discovering knowledge gaps in specific field of study.
  • Offer a systematic approach to identify questions for study, select variables, interpret findings, and validate nursing interventions.
Theory development
  • Theory development within nursing occurs in the context of practice.
  • Two activities contribute significantly to the overall process of developing theory in nursing.
    • Concept analysis and
    • Practical validation of theory.
Concept analysis
  • Identify and verify abstract concepts
  • "what events in practice can be linked with abstract concept x"
  • Application of theory in practice
  • Nursing process operation of analysis of assessment data.
  • Used as scientific rationale supporting judgments in nursing care plans.
  • Concepts may be
    1. readily observable, or concrete - thermometer, rash, and lesion;
    2. indirectly observable, or inferential - pain and temperature; or
    3. non-observable, or abstract - equilibrium, adaptation, stress, and powerlessness
  •  nursing theories address and specify relationships among four major abstract concepts referred to as the metaparadigm of nursing.
  • Four concepts are considered to be central to nursing:
    • Person or client, the recipient of nursing care (includes individuals, families, groups, and communities).
    • Environment, the internal and external surroundings that affect the client. This includes people in the physical environment, such as families, friends, and significant others.
    • Health, the degree of wellness or well-being that the client experiences.
    • Nursing, the attributes, characteristics, and actions of the nurse providing care on behalf of, or in conjunction with, the client.
  1. Phipps J Wilma, Sands K Judith. Medical Surgical Nursing: concepts & clinical practice.6th edition. Philadelphia. Mosby publications. 1996.
  2. Black M. Joice, Hawks hokanson Jane. Medical Surgical Nursing: Clinical Management for positive outcomes. St Lois, Missouri. 2005.
  3. Tomey AM, Alligood. MR. Nursing theorists and their work. (5th ed.).  Mosby,  Philadelphia, 2002
  4. Alligood M.R, Tomey. A.M. Nursing theory utilization and application. 2nd Ed. Mosby,  Philadelphia, 2002.


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