Nursing theories are research based, and widely established ideas that help to create a framework for nursing practice, as well as provide structure for the nursing scope. Nursing theory helps to delineate the meaning of nursing practice and profession, provides an understanding of the nursing role, and contributes to knowledge for practice (Iskandarani et al., 2012). Theory is a critical aspect in the nursing profession as it provides the groundwork for what we do and why we do it. It allows nurses to have an in-depth understanding of their scope of practice as well as their skills and competencies. Nurse practitioners are a crucial part of a health care team in this day and age. Unfortunately, due to the increase in competency based, and medically focused education, nursing theory is losing its place as a formative foundation in nurse practitioner curricula (Wood, 2020). Nursing requires a philosophical and theoretical basis and with that shrinking, we risk the loss of nursing foundations that were based in scientific and theoretical frameworks. It is true that theory and science based practice leads to better patient outcomes, and losing that could mean decreased level of care and ultimately, diminished health outcomes. Without theory in nursing, nursing simply becomes a robotic action of fulfilling orders for those with critical thinking skills and knowledge. If medicine is based in science and theory, why shouldn’t nursing? Nurse practitioner practice requires theory to be at the basis of all decision making. It can help nurses to define what is known, and what remains to be known. It can also help to make differential diagnoses, engage in research, and meaningfully treat a patient to reach maximal health outcomes. Nursing theory enables nurses to have an identity that is separate from physicians. It helps to promote confidence, competence, and respect, in the profession and is a crucial aspect of advanced practice nursing. After reading and reflecting on this week’s learning modules, it is clear that theory serves a necessary purpose in the nursing profession and should be maintained in the nursing curricula.
Iskandarani, L. S., Al Hammadi, A. M., & Al Gizani, R. A. (2012). Importance of nursing theories as a basis for practice. Journal of King Abdulaziz University Medical Sciences, 19(1), 115-123. https://doi.org/10.4197/Med.19-1S.8Links to an external site.
Wood, S. K. (2020). Keeping the nurse in the nurse practitioner. Advances in Nursing Science, 43(1), 50–61. https://doi.org/10.1097/ans.0000000000000301
Nursing theory is important to the practice of nurse practitioners (NP). As healthcare continues to become more complex due to advances in technology and advanced aging, NPs must have a framework to provide evidence-based care. It is important to acknowledge NPs are uniquely positioned to provide patient-centered care due to their experience as bedside nurses. Wood states “It is the nurse in the NP that renders their distinct value as primary health care providers. It is the nurse in the NP that orients patient care beyond diagnosis and treatment. It is the nurse in the NP that understands a person is not defined by their illness or disease, rendering care based on human wholeness, health/healing/well-being, human-environment-health relationship, and caring (2020).” The nursing theory allows registered nurses (RNs) to utilize knowledge gained in practice and information gained in advanced education, therefore, improving patient outcomes.
Nurse theory provides structure and direction for daily practice. Without nursing theory, nurse practitioners can easily become physician extenders (Wood, 2020). Without the foundation of knowledge that nursing theory provides, NPs will lean on the medical model and physicians. NPs are much more than physician extenders; they provide primary care in a multitude of environments and are often the sole provider. There are many different nursing theories, therefore they can be applied in various situations. For example, King’s Theory of Goal Attainment or Roy’s Adaptation Model helps with assessments, goal setting and chronic disease management (Wood, 2020). Nursing theory allows NPs to have a foundation of knowledge or a starting point. It helps the nurse practitioner garner the knowledge and baseline necessary to independently think therefore transitioning from registered nurse to NP.
I believe that nursing theory is important to the nursing profession and to, specifically, nurse practitioners. Every occupation that is considered professional, requiring higher education is steeped in theory. Over the years nursing education has evolved from receiving training from a doctor in a medical setting to a university setting. Nursing theory is important because, thanks to nursing scholars and leaders, who worked so hard, the foundation of nursing practice was developed and an educational curriculum to include theory-based knowledge and practice was included. Nursing theories provide the foundation upon which a new NP can gain the knowledge, skills, and objectivity to become a highly regarded professional.
Philosophies and Theories for Advance Practice, chapter 4 explains that there are two types of theories, commonsense theories, and scientific theories. Both of which are important. Nursing theories frame a nurses’ thinking, actions, and the use of evidence-based practice. The benefits of having defined nursing theory include, but are not limited to, better patient care, better communication between nurses, and guidance for further education for nurses and improved outcomes for the patients they care for.
Butts, B. J. & Rich, L. K. (2018). Philosophies and theories for advanced nursing practice (3rd ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning. Chapter 2, pp. 21-31, Chapter 4
Colley. (2003). Nursing theory: its importance to practice. Nursing Standard, 17(46), 33–37. https://doi.org/10.7748/ns2003.07.17.46.33.c3425