Nursing Science Essay

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Nursing Science

The nursing profession has a reputation of being one of the ultimate caring professions. In working with human beings, it is therefore important that nursing theory take into account a large amount of variables. These variables need to account both for the science of nursing and health, and for the psychological context of caring for human beings in illness and in pain. As such, a variety of nursing theories have seen the light since the beginnings of the profession as it is known today. One of the oldest nursing theories known today is the empiricist paradigm, while the humanistic theory is one of the newest additions to nursing care. Although many argue in favor of one over the other, it is also true that both theories contribute value to the nursing profession today.

According to the Current Nursing Website (2009), nursing theory is important for a number of reasons. In describing, predicting and explaining the nursing profession, theories attempt to put foundations in place for current nursing practice while also stimulating research and development within nursing. Such development continually improves the profession and the theory upon which it is based with time.

The benefits of developed nursing theories is that patient care is improved, while nurses also become known for a highly professional body of knowledge. The authors emphasize that the core value and purpose of nursing remain caring, but also that it is important to clearly explicate the theory upon which such caring is based. As such, nursing is based upon a unique body of knowledge.

All nursing theory incorporates four basic concepts to determine and influence the practice of the profession (Current Nursing, 2009). These include 1) the person; 2) the environment; 3) Health; and 4) the goals, roles and functions of nursing. Both the empiricist and humanistic paradigms of nursing include these four components. It is therefore generally recognized that they all play a role in the care of patients.

Cody and Kenney (2006, p. 32) explicate empiricism as a paradigm by which science can be determined through the use of the senses. This is also true in empiricist nursing. Observation is used to verify reality, with observation the main method of collecting data. The empiricist nurse has tools and instruments for the accurate measurement of data. He or she is also required to remain emotionally detached in order to maintain valid study results that are not influenced by personal biases. Data are presented by means of numerical values, which are then used to identify and test relationships by means of statistics.

Cody and Kenny emphasize that the empiricist paradigm is a necessary one in nursing. It is a vital component in identifying the science of patient care as well as the human response to health and illness. Medicine is indeed a science, and nurses need to be well educated in empirical science and the methods for obtaining empirical evidence in order to ensure their competence in patient care. The empiricist paradigm promotes the ability to test hypotheses, compare interventions, generalize, and to uncover influences. Theories can then be tested and validated in this way. This is a vital part of clinical practice, without which the nursing profession would be unable to function.

In terms of the four components of nursing theory (Current Nursing, 2009), the empiricist approach requires a somewhat detached observation of the person. The patient is regarded as a study subject that must be observed in a non-personal fashion. Personal bias is not acceptable within this paradigm. Work with people then generally involves an empirical study of their illness and how best to treat such illness.

The environment and health from the empiricist viewpoint are observed for their interaction and influence upon the person being investigated. It is recognized that the environment can directly influence health. Together with medicinal treatment, optimizing the environment for the promotion of health is also an important outcome of empiricist study. Finally, quantifiable observations made of the interaction of the person with his or her environment and the resulting health issue. This evidence can then be used in nursing practice, and also as a basis for future research and development in the profession. The emphasis is upon gather quantifiable data relating to the environment and the illness in order to provide data for nursing practice. Variables relating to either the person or the environment is repressed or at least controlled to some degree to ensure a more precise reading of the data and a more accurate assessment of relationships among the various components. The role of the person in determining his or her treatment, environment and health takes a subordinate position to concrete data. Persons are seen simply as part of a study and as vessels for observable data that can be used in further study. According to Cody and Kenney (2006, p. 33), empiricist nursing was a useful paradigm during the 1950s and 1960s, when the profession was being established for its merit as a unique science.

The authors however also note that there are many who criticize the empiricist paradigm for its inability to allow for human and environmental variables. In the current nursing paradigm, human beings are seen as the most important component of the profession. The emphasis is upon caring, and upon understanding the patient on a deeper level than just in terms of physically observable phenomena such as the illness, the environment, and possible medicinal remedies. Indeed, the variability and uniqueness of human behavior is used as one of the reasons for the current criticism against the empiricist approach.

Empiricism requires that human beings and environmental factors be subjected to control in order to obtain more accurate data. The humanistic approach requires an acceptance of the fact that none of the factors that could affect the study can be controlled. Furthermore, to impose such controls could also mean removing important contextual aspects that could help with diagnosis. After the 1960s, a more humanistic form of nursing was required to take into account persons as the center of diagnosis and further study. This created a number of problematic issues in terms of research, in that data was no longer quantifiable in terms of numbers. The premise of this new shift was however valid, in that empiricist control procedures tended to decrease the generalizability of a study outcome, while humanistic study accounted for variables within the human experience as well.

In investigating nursing paradigms and health issues within the humanistic nursing paradigm, there is a recognition of the other as a person rather than simply a subject for study. The experimental paradigm of empiricist nursing investigation furthermore tends to decontextualize the experience of human beings. This divides the four components of nursing, as mentioned above, by investigating each separately in terms of theory.

Humanistic theory, in contrast, considers the human being the center of the profession and its investigations. The patient is seen as a person rather than an object of study. In investigating the four components of nursing then, the person is placed at the center, with the environment, health, and the nursing profession playing a role only insofar as they affect the person and his or her care. The importance for the nursing profession is then that hypotheses are formed and tested, with the outcomes providing grounds for investigations of similar situations for other patients. This then provides a wider and more realistic body of knowledge for nursing than the empiricist approach. The humanistic theory is therefore a holistic approach, in which objectivity is not so much a requirement as it is subject to providing the person with optimal care.

Objectivity in nursing is then also replaced with a more interactive approach. The person is not viewed as an entity that responds to the environment in a certain way, but rather as a biological and interactive agent, subject to a myriad of variables and responses. Investigation then revolves around forming various hypotheses and ruling these out as the responses reveal themselves. This approach was viewed as less dehumanizing than the empiricist approach of the past (Cody and Kenney, 2006, p. 34).

The most prominent proponents of humanistic nursing are Paterson and Zderad (2008). In their book on the subject, they address humanistic nursing along with its meaning and approaches for the nursing profession. According to the authors (2008, p. 1), nursing is seen as an experience rather than a profession. The experience occurs between human beings. It is not only a science, but also an art that occupies the nurse's whole being in terms of interacting with others. As such, she is to have full awareness of herself as a person, and also strive towards such awareness of others. This is what the authors refer to as "existential experience," referring to the "human awareness of the self and of others" (Paterson and Zderad, 2008, p.1)

Humanistic nursing furthermore recognizes that each individual experiences the world in a unique way, while also collectively striving for survival, confirmation, and an understanding of his or… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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