Nursing Theories for Nurse Educators

Nurses working together and learning as a team

Nurse educators develop supportive frameworks for patient care using nursing theories based on scientific evidence and valid data. These theories provide strategies and approaches that are critical in educating the next generation of healthcare professionals.

Nurse educators create curricula based on sound educational principles, research, and theory to assist student nurses in developing the knowledge and skills necessary to provide care. Nursing theory pervades almost every aspect of nursing education, especially for registered nurses (RNs) transitioning to the next stage of their careers as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

“Dated and untested management strategies aren’t useful and can even be an impediment to providing safe patient care,” Josefina I. Alejandro, DNP, wrote in “Lessons learned through nursing theory,” which was published in Nurse2018. “However, when supported by evidence, theories in practice remain eternally current.”

Nursing educational theories, in addition to nursing science and pedagogical skills, contain critical information for RNs considering careers as nurse educators. Students pursuing a master’s degree in nursing education online at Duquesne University learn how grand theories can help nurses become better educators and caregivers.
Leading Nursing Educational Theories

Nursing theories can be applied to a wide range of situations. However, leading nursing programs, including Duquesne University’s program, incorporate grand theories into the master’s in nursing curriculum. Grand theories are thought to be the theoretical framework that supports nursing principles and key concepts.
Nursing Theory of Self-Care

The Self-Care Nursing Theory (also known as the Self-Care Deficit Nursing Theory) was developed by Dorothea Orem and focuses on the nurses’ role in assisting patients in becoming self-sufficient and responsible for their own care. The theory is based on the idea that in order to provide adequate self-care, people must be knowledgeable about their health problems. The theory is made up of three interconnected theories: the self-care theory, the self-care deficit theory, and the nursing systems theory.

Orem stated that she based her theory on her nursing practice as well as current nursing literature and thought. Throughout her career, she published several books that explored and expanded on her theory, such as Guides for Developing Curricula for Practical Nurse Education and Nursing: Concepts of Practice.
Theory of Cultural Care

As a nurse, Madeleine Leininger noticed a gap in nursing and patient care due to a lack of cultural and care knowledge. She developed transcultural nursing and the Cultural Care Theory as a result of her experiences in order to study and explain the outcomes of transcultural nursing.

Leininger’s theory emphasizes providing care that is compatible with a patient’s cultural beliefs, practices, and values. She coined the phrase “culturally congruent care” in the 1960s, which is the primary goal of transcultural nursing. Understanding the following are some of the fundamental tenets of transcultural nursing:

Cultural care diversity and universality refer to the differences and similarities between cultures.
Dimensions of cultural and social structure, which include factors such as religion, social structures, and economics that distinguish cultures.
Cultural care preservation or maintenance refers to nursing care activities that assist specific cultures in preserving core cultural values related to healthcare.

Humanistic Nursing Theory

The Humanistic Theory, also known as the holistic approach, seeks to integrate mental and emotional health with physical health. The theory assumes that patients grow in healthy and creative ways. This nursing approach, developed by APRNs Josephine Paterson and Loretta Zderad, views each patient as an individual who requires personalized care.

Paterson and Zderad created five phases of nursing, known as phenomenological nursing, to go along with the Humanistic Theory:

Nurses prepare for “coming to know” or begin an investigation.
Nurses form a “I-You” relationship with their patients in order to understand them and use their intuitive knowledge.
Nurses apply scientific knowledge and establish a subject-object or “I-It” relationship, allowing them to reflect on their own experiences and contextualize them for the current situation.
Nurses combine their knowledge to become a source of constantly changing information.
Nurses transition from the “many to the paradoxical one” in order to apply knowledge in a clinical setting.

Interpersonal Relationship Theory

Hildegard Peplau’s Interpersonal Relations Theory, developed in 1952, emphasizes the significance of the nurse-patient relationship. Nurses can provide better care to their patients if they establish strong bonds based on mutual respect. Peplau’s theory progresses in three stages:

Orientation: A patient’s needs initiate the nurse-patient relationship. The nurse walks the patient through the treatment process and answers questions.
Working: As the nurse-patient relationship grows, the patient focuses on expressing his or her reactions to the illness and becomes an active participant in care.
Termination: The nurse assists the patient in following through on the care provided and returning to a normal productive life.

Throughout the phases, the nurses play a variety of roles, including resource person, teacher, surrogate, and counselor.
Theory of Need

The nursing Need Theory, developed by Virginia Henderson, an RN who was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame, focuses on a nurse’s role in assisting patients to maintain health, recover from injuries, or die peacefully. In her work, she emphasized the importance of nurses focusing on the patient rather than the doctor.

Henderson, considered the mother of modern nursing care, outlined four basic needs for patients to live independently: psychological, physiological, social, and spiritual:

Communicating and dealing with fears are examples of psychological needs.
Physiological requirements include eating and sleeping.
Worship and faith are examples of spiritual needs.
Social requirements include recreational activities.

Nursing Research: Survey and Assessment and Nursing Studies Index, both published in 1964 and 1972, were among Henderson’s notable works.
Nursing Theories Used by APRNs

According to healthcare professionals, APRNs pursuing careers as nurse educators must use nursing theories as a foundation for daily practice on a small and large scale, from the patient’s bedside to community health nursing.

The influence of Magnet-recognized hospitals, according to Alejandro’s Nurse2018 journal article, makes learning and applying educational theories in nursing critical to achieving positive patient outcomes. “When our patients and their families, as well as those in other healthcare professions, ask why we do what we do,” she says, “we can cite the nursing theories and theorists who guide us in our profession.”

Students at Duquesne University pursuing a career as nurse educators use theories to guide every aspect of their nursing education and career. Students pursuing an online master’s degree in nursing education learn about educational theories in nursing as a framework for all future healthcare work. The Master of Science in Nursing program at Duquesne University is designed to help registered nurses transition from clinical care to the classroom.

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