Nursing Theorists and Their Work

florence-nightingale-picWe have often heard about them. We have spent hours and hours trying to memorize their concepts for exams. For numerous times, we have been grilled by Clinical Instructors on their importance and the need to understand them. But have we really appreciated them?

Nursing theories, as they are always defined, are used to describe, develop, disseminate, and use present knowledge in nursing. They are considered as the backbone of the nursing profession as they provide different explanations of the nursing discipline and define the role of a nurse in a given situation.  They all share four central concepts in nursing: The person, Environment, Health, And Nursing. The “Person” concept includes individuals, families, communities, and groups. They should be considered in every theory because they are the recipients of nursing care. Environment means every setting where nursing care is provided and includes factors that affect individuals internally and Health in general addresses the person’s state of well-being. The concept of Nursing is vital to all nursing theories since with its definition comes the description of what nursing is, what nurses do, and how they interact with clients

Some Nursing Theories and Theorists

Dorothea Orem (1970, 1985)

Self-Care Deficit Theory

She defined nursing as “The act of assisting others in the provision and management of self-care to maintain/improve human functioning at home level of effectiveness.” Her theory focuses on activities that adult individuals perform on their own behalf to maintain life, health and well-being and was centered on strong health promotion and maintenance. Orem’s general theory of nursing has three related parts: Theory of self care, Theory of self care deficit, and Theory of nursing system.

According to her, people are distinct individuals who must be self-reliant and responsible for their own care and others in their family needing care. Her theory was first published in Nursing: Concepts of Practice in 1971, second in 1980, in 1995, and 2001.

Faye Glenn Abdellah (1960)

Twenty One Nursing Problems

She introduced Patient – Centered Approaches to Nursing Model and defined nursing as service to individual, families as well as the society. She also viewed nursing as an art and a science that molds the attitudes, intellectual competencies and technical skills of the individual nurse into the aspiration and capacity to help people, sick or well, and cope with their health needs.

She also grouped into 21 problem areas to direct care and promote the use of nursing judgment. They center around needs for hygiene, comfort, activity, rest, safety, oxygen, nutrition, elimination, hydration, physical and emotional health promotion, interpersonal relationships, and development of self-awareness.

Florence Nightingale (1860)

Environmental Theory

She defined Nursing as The act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist him in his recovery. Her theory focuses on changing and manipulating the environment in order to put the patient in the best possible conditions for nature to act since according to her, a sanitary, fresh and quiet environment is essential for recovery.

She then identified 5 environmental factors accounting to such, such as fresh air, pure water, efficient drainage, cleanliness/sanitation and light/direct sunlight. Also, for her, shortage on these factors can result to illness or lack of health, however, with a nurturing environment, the body could repair itself.

Lydia Hall (1964)

Core, Care and Cure Model

According to her, the client is composed of the following related parts: person (core), pathologic state and treatment (cure) and body (care). Care stand for nurturance and is restricted to nursing. Core involves the therapeutic use of self and highlights the use of reflection. Cure, then, centers on nursing related to the physician’s orders. Core and cure are shared with the other health care providers. According to her theory, the main point of care is to attain an interpersonal rapport with the individual that will assist in the development of the core.

Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice

There are still numerous theorists, not enumerated here, who proved to be important in the nursing profession with their relevant works and theories. Nursing theories nowadays seem to be taken for granted by nurses and nursing students, they don’t really acknowledge their importance in the nursing practice. Instead of just memorizing their names and theories, let us try to appreciate them and internalize their concepts. Let us not underestimate them as well as other aspects of academic learning by thinking that practical experience is more important and the rest is history. No. Actually, both theories and practice are equally important in nursing. Everything we learn from books and the classroom are downright significant since they are there to give nurses and aspiring nurses knowledge, broadens our horizons and challenges our ways of thinking. Theory and practice complement one another. By balancing the two well, you may actually be on the road to becoming a safe, competent and knowledgeable nurse.



Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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