Nursing and Nursing Theory, Coursework Example
The profession of nursing has come a long way in the past century. In the 1880s nurses had a reputation as being “drunken, dishonest, and disreputable” (Hoyt, 2010); today, Americans rank nursing as the most ethical profession in the field of health care (Hoyt, 2010). Florence Nightingale was single-handedly responsible for changing not just the way nursing is conducted, but also changing public perception of the nursing profession. In the years since Nightingale established nursing as a serious and legitimate profession, many theories have been developed that continue to codify and define what nursing is and how nurses can best serve their patients. At the core of all these theories remains the most important concept Nightingale established: nurses must have a “single eye to the patient’s good” (Hoyt, 2010).
The foundational paradigm of Nightingale’s approach to nursing was strict adherence to a code of ethics. Nightingale insisted that her students be “sober and truthful” (Hoyt, 2010) and that they treat patients in an ethical manner. Nightingale instructed her students to treat patients with honesty, and to give them truthful and accurate information about the nature of their conditions. Nightingale believed it was important to be honest with patients about their conditions, and to not give them false hope when their situation was in fact dire (Andrist et al, 2006). In this way, she believed, patients were able to make the best decisions for themselves about the nature of their care and how they should deal with their conditions. This core set of ethical principles continues to inform the development of nursing theories to this day.
The significance of the impact that Nightingale had on the nursing profession cannot be overestimated. In 1860 Nightingale published Notes on Nursing: What it is and What it is Not, a seminal work that helped to define the role of nurses and the nursing profession, setting new standards for the profession and establishing paradigms that continue to inform the role of nurses and the development of nursing theories (Judd et al, 2010). That same year Nightingale opened a nurse training school, and continued to help make the role of nurses in society be seen as a respectable and important profession.
Nursing has always had a spiritual component, and Nightingale certainly continued to reinforce the idea that nursing was a spiritual, and even religious, calling (Andrist, 2006). In contemporary times, this adherence to the spiritual underpinnings has grown to inform the ethical and moral components of the profession; even those nurses who may not feel a spiritual pull in their personal or professional lives are still functioning in a profession that is firmly rooted in ethical and moral principles.
Nightingale’s work served to establish nearly all the advancements that would arise in the nursing profession in the coming decades. It was her work, Notes on Nursing, which set the tone for the establishment of nursing theories; all the subsequent nursing theories owe their existence to her work and her writings. Though a thorough discussion of all nursing theories is beyond the scope of this discussion, it is possible to provide at least a cursory examination of some seminal theories as a means of elucidating the way in which nursing theories have developed from the time off Nightingale to the present.
Over the next few decades after Nightingale’s time, the role of nursing continued to be codified and improved upon, as the contributions of various professionals influenced the way nurses carried out their duties. Isabella Hampton Robb, appointed the head of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in 1889, established a set of standards and a grading system for nurses that continue to serve as the foundation for nursing education to this day (Judd et al, 2010). Of all the events in the 20th century that served to redefine and improve public perception of nursing, however, none was more significant than World War II (Judd et al, 2010). Nurses serving in the military were seen as heroes to the American public, and the profession took on a new, elevated status that continues to this day. In the decades after WWII, the development of nursing theories would become a primary component of the profession.
The earliest nurses were typically members of religious orders; these nurses would typically provide care to the sick and infirm in their own homes or in almshouses for the poor and indigent (Andrist et al, 2006). The significance of this connection between those involved in spiritual endeavors and those involved in nursing is critical, as it serves to underpin the very nature of the profession. In the 20th century, one of the most significant developments in nursing theory was developed by a member of a religious order when Sister Calista Roy proposed her “Adaptation Model of Nursing” (Andrist et al, 2010).
Roy’s Adaptation Model viewed the patient holistically, taking into account not just the illness, but the patient as a person, and the environment in which the patient was being treated and in which he or she lived. Roy believed that it was necessary to understand how the patient functioned not just as a patient, but as a social creature, one who was influenced by and responded to his or her environmental stimuli. Only in this way, Roy asserted, could a patient be effectively treated (Judd et al, 2006). The fundamentals of Roy’s Adaptation Theory continue to influence the development of other theories, many of which also tend to view the patient in as broad a context as possible.
From Nightingale to Roy to Watson and her “Caring Theory of Nursing,” some common threads can be seen. Despite the differences among the various nursing theories, all tend to build upon the fundamental ideas established by Nightingale. The idea that nursing is at its core, a spiritual endeavor, continues to inform the ethical and philosophical components of the profession. Above all, nursing theories tend to view the patient as more than just his or her malady or medical condition, and as a fully-formed human being. Further, many theorists posit, it is crucial to recognize the significance of the relationship between patient and nurse. These ideas are universal, and understanding them is at the very heart of what makes nurses, and nursing, so valuable.
Andrist, Linda C.; Nicholas, Patricia K.; Wolf, Karen. A history of Nursing ideas. Jones and Bartlett, Sudbury, MA. 2006.
Hoyt, Stephanie. Florence Nightingale’s contribution to contemporary nursing ethics. Journal of holistic Nursing. 28(4). December 2010.
Judd, Deborah M.; Sitzman, Kathleen; Davis, Megan. A history of American nursing: trends and ideas. Jones and Bartlett, Sudbury, MA. 2010.
Watson, J. Nursing: Human science and human care. A theory of nursing (2nd printing). New York: National League for Nursing. New York, NY. 1988.
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