Nursing theories: love ’em or leave ’em

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I remember starting nursing school, and one of the coolest things was that all of the sudden, I realized all my textbooks were written by women. I mean no offense to all you awesome male nurses out there, but this was the first time in my life where all of the texts, all of the ideas, were the ideas of the great women of nursing. I soon learned that all the theorist we were learning about by last name were all women! It was a really cool “A-ha!” kind of moment. I was soon told that BSN schools often teach through the view of one of the nursing theorists, using their ideas in research, organization, and practice.

Our school’s theory is Orem’s “self-care deficit” theory.  Now, we haven’t studied it in depth, but it provides the framework for our case studies. I really respect this theory, but it’s very vague to me, and truthfully, it seems like just a different way of organizing assessment information. There isn’t much that we have done that utilizes this theory in a way that makes me think, “oh, now I understand how to structure patient care.” This is especially true because Orem has her own set of diagnoses aside from NANDAs, and we have to use both!

It seems to me like we’re in the need for some new theories (or maybe just switching out the one at my school?). I was in my health promotion class yesterday learning all about how a large part of our nursing career is going to be about helping people change. Helping them overcome their addiction, get physical exercise, eat health and quit smoking. I asked my professor, “isn’t there a nursing theorist who has studied change and how nursing can help influence this process?” Her answer left me sort of high and dry, she said, “you should get your PhD and create one.” Which is definitely a way cool thought, being up in the ranks of nursing text books with “Ani’s Change Theory,” but it also made me feel like we’re still stuck with theories that aren’t exactly molding or improving our practices on a daily basis. Maybe we’re the generation of nurses that can bring about this change?

Nursing students: Does your school follow a particular nursing theory? If yes, than which one, and what do you think of it? If you don’t follow a particular one, what are your thoughts about learning through one theory’s framework in nursing?

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Ani Burr, RN

I'm a brand new, full-fledged, fresh-out-of-school RN! And better yet, I landed the job of my dreams working with children. I love what I do, and while everyday on the job is a new (and sometimes scary) experience, I'm taking it all in - absorbing everything I can about this amazing profession we all fell in love with.

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2 Responses to Nursing theories: love ’em or leave ’em

  1. There are MANY change theories. A good source is The Change Handbook 2nd Ed. and it contains over 60 methods to initiate and sustain change.
    Health Promotion (Pender, Murdaugh, & Parsons, 2006) is an other excellent source for health promotion strategies.
    I have been a nurse for over 30 years. Theories will make more sense once you are out practicing for a while. It is indeed a way to “organize” one’s thoughts and ways of knowing. Don’t dismiss them as unnecessary, they can be very insightful for creating whole new systems and to help a group “sing off” the same sheet of music in their approach to patient care.
    Best wishes in your nursing career.

  2. Ani Burr Scrubs Blogger

    Thank you for posting this! i will definitely look for “The Change Handbook” it sounds very interesting. “Health Promotion” by Pender, et al. is one of our texts, so I am reading through that as well.

    I get what you are saying about theories making more sense after using them in practice. I think that I why I am frustrated with Orem… we’ve been using it for a year and a half now, and it’s making sense, but it’s not helping with organization at all. I just feel like it’s not the most effective theory to be using.

    Are there any theories that have helped you, or that you use when practicing?