The question “What is nursing?” became popular in the 70s as many nurse scholars felt the need to recognize nursing as a profession. Concepts about the person, the environment, and health grew into theories of nursing, which later became nursing fundamentals.
How do we bridge the gap between nursing fundamentals and practice? First, appreciate the value of nursing theories not only in educating the novice nurse or the student nurse but more so in applying them to nursing practice in clinical settings, community health settings or occupational health and administrative services. The experience that nurses acquire in applying these theories helps them construct new knowledge. This new knowledge must be observed, tested and validated to come up with evidence-based practice.
Applying theory to nursing practice has many advantages for the nurses and the profession. This gives nurses the opportunity to organize principles that will help evaluate patient care and improve the nursing interventions based on the evaluation findings. The theories can also provide nurses with basis or rationale for making decisions. For example, the Transcultural Theory of Nursing by Madeleine Leininger serves as basis for nurses to make decisions in terms of respecting the cultural and religious beliefs of some racial, ethnic, or cultural groups. An example is the belief that it is not good to have blood transfusion among specific religious groups and because of this transcultural theory, nurses are able to understand the belief of this group and therefore advocate for the client’s preferences. Dorothea Orem’s Self-Care theory, provides nurses with a solid basis for assisting their clients and giving them the opportunity to express independence and control in caring for themselves. Health education on self-care when the patient is ready to be discharged comes from the principles of self-care and the concepts discussed in this theory. As nurses find the appropriate rationale for patient care, they are encouraged to ask more broadly about the theory or evidence that supports their practice.
It is important for nurses in this current era to see themselves as professionals having intellectual bases for actions and decisions. Critical thinking is highly valued today, as the general trend is to offload more and more of the doctor’s task to the nurse practicioner. By using the nursing theories that fit your nursing practice, you become more confident about your decisions and it opens you up for more self-reflection towards professional development, more personal growth and more room for innovation.
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