Why Is Nursing Theory Important in Nursing Education?

Nursing theory is central to nursing practice. In fact, there are numerous theories that exist today. Each was created using scientific evidence and valid data to create frameworks and various strategies and approaches for patient care. These theories, however, are about much more than just big ideas. Nursing theory contributes to the profession’s ability to carve out its own niche in the complex, ever-changing world of health care providers.

“Nursing theories… regardless of complexity or abstraction, reflect phenomena central to the discipline and should be used by nurses to frame their thinking, action, and being in the world,” wrote Marlaine Smith and Marilyn Parker in Nursing Theories and Nursing Practice. Nursing theories serve as guides and facilitate communication with those we serve, as well as colleagues, students, and others working in health-related services.”

Nursing theory is also important because it influences how we think about nursing. Nursing theory aids nurses in understanding their patients and their needs by distinguishing nursing as a distinct discipline from medicine and related sciences. The theory provides various templates to assist nurses in providing patient-centered care that improves outcomes. These theories seek to simplify the complicated, ever-changing relationship that nurses have with their profession by understanding the intersection of nursing, patients, health, and the environment.

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, for example, provides a robust curriculum that integrates theory and evidence-based practice to prepare the next generation of nursing professionals.
What Exactly Is Nursing Theory?

Nursing theory is a set of concepts and practices that guide meaningful actions in the nursing field, such as how to treat patients, communicate with patient families, and organize nursing responsibilities. Although there are numerous theories, they do not all serve the same purpose. Some are applicable to all nursing, while others are only applicable in certain circumstances or conditions. For example, “environmental theory,” a nursing theory popularized by Florence Nightingale, emphasizes the importance of quality surroundings for patient recovery, such as cleanliness, fresh air, pure water, and light exposure.

Though nurses develop nursing theory, physicians, nursing theorists, and other health care professionals influence it. Nurses frequently employ multiple theories, as adhering to a single theory is not always beneficial.
Nursing Theory’s Importance in Nurse Education

Nursing was viewed as a task-oriented occupation prior to the development of nursing theories, and nurses were trained by doctors. Nursing theory is now the foundation of nursing. According to the website Nurselabs, it is shaping the field in significant ways because it:

Aids nurses in understanding their role and purpose in the health care setting.
Directs education, research, and practice and guides knowledge development
Recognizes what should be the foundation of practice by describing nursing explicitly
Serves as a rationale or scientific basis for nursing interventions and provides nurses with the knowledge base necessary to act and respond appropriately in nursing care situations.
It lays the groundwork for nursing practice.
Indicates the future direction of nursing development.
Provides nurses with a sense of identity
Assists patients, managers, and other health-care professionals in recognizing and comprehending the unique contribution nurses make to health-care services.
Prepares nurses to reflect on nursing assumptions and examine nursing values, further defining nursing and expanding their knowledge base.
Allows the nursing profession to keep its professional limits and boundaries.

A Look at the Biggest Nursing Theories

A grand theory is exactly what the name suggests. Grand theories, as opposed to middle-range and practical theories, provide a comprehensive overview of the nursing profession.

Grand theories, as defined by the website CareerTrend, are “general concepts that pertain to the overall nature and goals of professional nursing.” A grand theory, of which there are many, is a synthesis of scholarly research, professional experience, and theoretical pioneers’ insights (such as Florence Nightingale).”

Dorothea Orem developed a well-known grand nursing theory in the 1950s that focuses on the individual’s ability to practice self-care. Orem’s theory is divided into three systems: self-care, self-care deficit, and nursing.

The Roy Adaptation Model, proposed by Callista Roy in 1976, states that the purpose of nursing is primarily to increase life expectancy. According to author Angelo Gonzalez in an online article for NurseLabs, “nurses are facilitators of adaptation.” They evaluate the patient’s behaviors for adaptation, encourage positive adaptation by improving environment interactions, and assist patients in responding positively to stimuli. Nurses eliminate ineffective coping mechanisms, resulting in better outcomes. Adaptation is defined as “the process and result of thinking and feeling persons as individuals or in groups using conscious awareness and choice to create human and environmental integration.”

In the early twentieth century, Virginia Henderson, known as the “first lady of nursing,” developed a grand theory of nursing. According to the website Nursing Theory, it defined the role of nurses as follows: “The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will, or knowledge.”

Other significant theorists and their concepts discussed in NurseLabs include:

Ida Jean Orlando, who “emphasised the reciprocal relationship between patient and nurse and saw the professional function of nursing as determining and meeting the patient’s immediate need for assistance.”
Hildegard Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations emphasized the nurse-client relationship as the bedrock of nursing practice.
“Typology of 21 Nursing Problems” author Faye Abdellah “shifted the focus of nursing from a disease-centered approach to a patient-centered approach.”
Jean Watson created the caring philosophy, which “highlighted humanistic aspects of nursing as they intertwine with scientific knowledge and nursing practice.”

Nursing theory is an important part of all levels of nursing education. An MSN curriculum allows nurses who want to advance their education to examine more complex concepts of nursing theory alongside the practical experience students have already gained. Those who want to be nurse educators can use nursing theories to train students and influence the future of nursing.

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