Nursing Defined by Different Scholars

What is the fundamental concept behind definition of nursing

Nursing, as a dynamic and multifaceted discipline, has various understandings and interpretations that have been encapsulated into numerous nursing definitions. Conceptually, these definitions aim to define the scope, roles, and responsibilities of the nursing profession within the healthcare system. They serve as a guide for practice, education, and research in the nursing field.

There are also specialized nursing definitions that delineate specific roles such as pediatric nursing, geriatric nursing, oncology nursing, etc. These definitions not only differentiate between various specializations within the profession but also highlight the diverse skill sets required in each area.

Every definition of nursing provides a structural framework for understanding and practicing the profession. They underline the core values of nursing such as compassion, empathy, respect for patient autonomy, and commitment to professionalism. The constant evolution of these definitions reflects the dynamic nature of the profession and its adaptability to changes in healthcare needs and settings.

Evolution of nursing definition

The evolution of nursing definitions represents the progressive development and transformation within the nursing profession. Originally, nursing was viewed as a vocation centered around caring for the sick and wounded, with a focus on basic care and comfort. Over time, with advancements in medical knowledge and technology, the scope of nursing expanded. Today, nursing is defined not merely as a service, but as an autonomous discipline with its unique body of knowledge and practice.

In its current definition, nursing is recognized as a scientific discipline that focuses on promoting health, preventing illness, caring for the sick, and helping patients and their families holistically cope with illness. This evolution reflects changes in societal needs, advances in healthcare delivery systems, and an increased emphasis on evidence-based practice. Furthermore, the role of nurses has evolved from being care providers to becoming educators, researchers, advocates, and healthcare leaders.

The ongoing evolution of nursing definitions underscores the dynamic nature of the profession and its adaptability to societal needs and healthcare trends. It acknowledges the complexity of human health and the critical role of nurses in addressing these complexities. As the healthcare landscape continues to change, we can expect further evolution in the definition and scope of nursing.

1. Florence Nightingale definition of nursing (Environmental Theory)

Nightingale defined nursing in very simple words, her environmental theory, which she articulated in the 19th century, laid the foundation for modern nursing practice. She defined nursing as an art and a science that aimed to place the patient in the best condition for nature to act. Florence Nightingale emphasized not only the treatment of diseases but also their prevention.

Environmental-theory of Florence Nightingale

It takes into account the holistic perspective of patient care, including their physical, emotional, and social needs. She highlighted that nursing is about assisting individuals, families, and communities to increase their health and well-being. Thus, Florence Nightingale’s definition of nursing sets the foundation for the profession and remains relevant today in providing patient-centered care.

Nightingale believed that nursing requires a deep understanding of the human body and the ability to provide compassionate care. She emphasized the importance of creating a clean and healthy environment for patients; her environmental theory is based on five elements of a healthy environment including pure water, pure and fresh air, efficient drainage system, hygiene, and direct sunlight.

Read more about: Role of Florence Nightingale in the American Civil War

2. Hildegard Peplau definition of nursing (Interpersonal Relations Model)

Hildegard Peplau, a pioneer in psychiatric nursing, contributed significantly to the evolving definition of nursing. She defined that:

Nursing is the existence of a therapeutic relationship between the nurse and the client. Nurses establish a personal relationship with an individual when a need is present. (Hildegard Peplau-1952).

She believed that nursing was a therapeutic interpersonal process, where the nurse and the patient work together to promote health and well-being. Peplau emphasized the importance of the nurse-patient relationship, which she believed was a crucial aspect of healing. Her interpersonal concept highlighted the need for nurses to be empathetic, supportive, and skilled in communication. Hildegard Peplau’s Interpersonal Relations Model is a seminal concept in the field of nursing. Peplau defined nursing as an interpersonal process of therapeutic interactions between an individual who is sick or in need of health services and a nurse who is proficient in recognizing, realizing, and responding to the patient’s need for help.

Hildegard Peplau’s interpersonal concept underscores the significance of the nurse-patient relationship, highlighting that it is not merely about providing care, but also about understanding the patient’s needs through effective communication. Hildegard described the nurse-patient relationship in four phases.

  1. Orientation
  2. Identification
  3. Exploitation
  4. Resolution

 This model has greatly influenced nursing practices and education worldwide.

3. Virginia Henderson definition of nursing

Virginia Henderson’s definition of nursing is a foundational concept in the field that has greatly influenced nursing practice, education, and research. Her definition emphasizes the nurse’s role in promoting health, not merely managing disease. It acknowledges that nursing encompasses a broad range of activities beyond direct patient care, including patient education, health promotion, and advocacy.

Moreover, in Virginia Henderson’s definition of nursing, she recognized that nursing care should be tailored to each individual’s needs and abilities, taking into account their circumstances and cultural context. Her definition of nursing serves as a reminder that nursing is about supporting individuals in their pursuit of well-being. It underscores the importance of holistic care and the role of the nurse as a partner in health rather than just a provider of care.

Virginia Henderson outlined the 14 fundamental needs in her definition of nursing. These needs offer insights into the comprehensive nature of nursing care and have been instrumental in shaping nursing practices globally. These fundamental needs encompass physical, psychological, and social aspects of patient care.

The 14 fundamental needs are:

  1. Breathing normally.
  2. Eating and drinking adequately.
  3. Eliminating body wastes.
  4. Moving and maintaining a desirable posture.
  5. Sleeping and resting.
  6. Selecting suitable clothes.
  7. Maintaining body temperature within normal limits.
  8. Keeping the body clean to protect the skin.
  9. Avoiding dangers and injuries.
  10. Communicating with others.
  11. Worshiping according to one’s faith.
  12. Working in a way that one feels an accomplishment.
  13. Participating in recreational activities.
  14. Learning, discovering, or satisfying the curiosity that leads to normal health.

These needs provide a holistic approach to nursing care that is not merely limited to physical well-being but also extends to emotional and spiritual well-being. In her definition, Henderson emphasized the nurse’s role in helping patients to regain their independence as soon as possible. Her definition has continually served as the foundation of nursing education and practice. Notably, these fundamental needs highlight the critical role nurses play in assisting patients in their recovery journey and maintaining their overall well-being.

Read about: The Role of Women in the History of Nursing

4. Faye Glenn Abdellah definition of nursing

Faye Glenn Abdellah’s definition of nursing stands as a cornerstone in the field of nursing theory. Abdellah categorized nursing care as a problem-solving service that is critical for health and well-being. Her perspective shifted the focus from disease-centered to patient-centered care, emphasizing the importance of understanding human needs.

three nurses

In Abdellah’s view, nursing is an art and a science dedicated to bettering human life. This comprehensive approach underscores the critical role that nurses play in healthcare, extending beyond mere treatment to patient education and preventive care. Faye Glenn Abdellah’s definition of nursing has greatly influenced the way we perceive and nursing practice today.

5. Ida Jean Orlando definition of nursing (The Dynamic Nurse-Patient Relationship / Deliberative Nursing Process Theory)

Ida Jean Orlando’s definition of nursing is a significant concept in the field of nursing theory and practice. She was born in 1926, Orlando was an influential nursing theorist who developed the “Deliberative Nursing Process Theory,” which posits that nursing is a responsive and interactive process. According to Ida Jean Orlando, the role of the nurse is to find out and meet the patient’s immediate need for help. She believed that the nurses should use their perceptions, thoughts, and feelings to explore the meaning of distress expressed by the patient.

Her theory emphasizes the dynamic relationship between nurse and patient. It underscores the importance of understanding the patient’s verbal and non-verbal expressions of need and using this understanding to provide immediate relief. Her theory also highlights the necessity for nurses to avoid making assumptions and instead rely on evidence-based assessments.

Orlando’s definition has greatly influenced how nurses interact with patients. It encourages nurses to engage in active listening, empathetic understanding, and individualized care. This approach to nursing ensures that patient needs are met effectively and efficiently, leading to better patient outcomes. Ida Jean Orlando’s definition of nursing remains integral to the profession, guiding nurses toward providing high-quality, patient-centered care.

Explore about: The Founders of Modern Nursing

6. Ernestine Wiedenbach’s definition of nursing

Ernestine Wiedenbach’s definition of nursing is a comprehensive and unique perspective on the role and purpose of nursing. Wiedenbach, a renowned nursing theorist and educator, provided a definition that emphasizes the humanistic aspects of nursing. According to her, nursing is a service-oriented discipline that entails the “purposeful identification, exploration, and facilitation of the patient’s needs for help”.

Her concept of nursing goes beyond simple caregiving; it encompasses understanding the patient’s perception of their situation and the nurse’s perception of the patient’s need for help. Ernestine Wiedenbach’s definition of nursing accentuates the importance of compassion, empathy, and respect for the individuality and dignity of patients. It proposes that nurses should not merely be skilled practitioners but also empathetic supporters who can help patients navigate their health challenges.

Moreover, Wiedenbach believed that nursing involves a commitment to the patient and a responsibility to provide care based on professional knowledge and judgment. In her view, nursing is not just a job, but a calling that requires dedication, skill, and a deep understanding of human needs and responses. Ernestine Wiedenbach’s definition of nursing has greatly influenced the way nurses are trained and how they practice, emphasizing patient-centered care and the importance of the nurse-patient relationship.

7. Joyce Travelbee definition of nursing (Human-to-Human Relationship Model)

Joyce Travelbee developed the Human-to-Human Relationship Model, which positions nursing as an interpersonal process based on a professional, therapeutic relationship between the nurse and the patient. She believed that nursing was a “human-to-human interaction, where the nurse provides emotional and psychological support to the patient.” Her philosophy underscores the essence of understanding the individual’s perception of illness, rather than the disease itself.

According to Joyce Travelbee, nurses do not merely treat the symptoms but engage with patients to comprehend their experiences and responses to illness. This connection helps in developing a shared understanding and enables the nurse to provide empathetic care that is meaningful and tailored to the patient’s unique circumstances.

Joyce Travelbee’s definition of nursing promotes a holistic approach to patient care. It encourages nurses to see beyond the clinical aspects of health and disease, focusing on human experiences, emotions, and narratives. This perspective sets a foundation for compassionate and patient-centered care, which is crucial in modern healthcare settings. Her definition of nursing has significantly influenced nursing theories and practices, emphasizing empathy, communication, and understanding in patient-nurse relationships.

Explore the Historical Perspective of Nursing

8. Myra Levine definition of nursing (Conservation Model)

In the spectrum of nursing theories, Myra Levine’s definition of nursing holds a significant place, emphasizing the holistic approach to patient care. Nursing definition by Myra Levine aims to help individuals attain, maintain, or regain their health and functionality. She proposed a unique concept of the ‘Conservation Model’, which underlines four principles: conservation of energy, structural integrity, personal integrity, and social integrity.

According to Levine, nursing isn’t solely about physical care; it’s about understanding and respecting the patient’s individuality and cultural background. Nursing defined by Myra Levine encourages the promotion of adaptation and maintenance of wholeness using the principles of conservation. She believed that nurses must focus on the balance between input and output to conserve energy, maintain an individual’s structure, enhance personal integrity, and promote social interaction.

This interpretation of nursing is a testament to Levine’s belief in patient-centered care. It underscores the importance of understanding patients’ needs in their entirety rather than focusing only on their illness or ailment. This holistic perspective is now a fundamental tenet in modern nursing practice. Nursing definition by Myra Levine thus contributes significantly to the development of patient care strategies in today’s healthcare environment.

9. Martha Rogers definition of nursing (Science of Unitary Human Beings)

Martha Rogers’ definition of nursing has significantly influenced the profession and continues to inspire many nursing practitioners worldwide. Rogers viewed nursing as a human science. She emphasized that nursing aims to promote health and well-being for all individuals, regardless of their situation or condition. Her definition of nursing encompasses a comprehensive approach that goes beyond mere physical care. It includes the psychological, social, and environmental elements that impact an individual’s health. Rogers stressed the importance of viewing the patient as a unified whole and not just focusing on their illness or symptoms.

Rogers’ theory, which is often referred to as the ‘Science of Unitary Human Beings,’ has reshaped the nursing profession in many ways. Martha Rogers’ definition of nursing has encouraged nurses to provide holistic care and consider all factors that can influence a patient’s health. It promotes an empathetic approach to care provision, reinforcing the notion that each patient is unique and should be treated as such.

Her theory of nursing is not just about caring for the sick; it’s about promoting and maintaining health, preventing illnesses, and improving the quality of life. This perspective has greatly contributed to the recognition of nursing as a distinct scientific discipline, capable of making significant contributions to healthcare delivery.

10. Imogene King definition of nursing (Goal Attainment Theory)

Imogene King’s definition of nursing is a framework that emphasizes human interaction and communication as essential elements for promoting health and well-being. Her theory, known as the ” Goal Attainment Theory “, views nursing as a process comprising a series of actions leading to goal attainment. According to King, nursing is a process that involves human beings interacting with their environment to maintain a state of health.

nurse showing the stethoscope

King argues that nursing is not just about providing care to patients; it is also about establishing a relationship with them, understanding their needs, and helping them reach their health goals. She emphasizes the role of nurses as facilitators who empower patients to take control of their health and make informed decisions about their care. The nurse-patient relationship, in Imogene King’s definition of nursing, is rooted in mutual respect and understanding.

Imogene King’s definition of nursing also underscores the importance of research and education in nursing practice. She advocates for the continuous learning and application of knowledge to improve patient outcomes. This aspect of King’s theory highlights the dynamic nature of nursing and the need for nurses to stay updated with the latest developments in healthcare.

Overall, Imogene King’s definition of nursing presents a holistic view of the profession, emphasizing human interaction, goal-oriented care, and continuous learning as key components. It provides a comprehensive guide for nurses in delivering patient-centered care and contributes significantly to our understanding of nursing as a profession.

11. Dorothea Orem definition of nursing (Self-Care Deficit Theory)

Dorothea Orem developed the Self-Care Deficit Theory, a grand nursing theory that is widely used in nursing education and practice. According to Dorothea Orem’s definition of nursing, nursing is an art through which the practitioner provides specialized assistance to individuals who might be lacking the necessary ability to maintain continuous self-care for personal health and well-being.

Furthermore, Orem’s theory emphasizes that nursing is a science; it requires a specific knowledge base and the mastering of skills to deliver care effectively. Her theory expands on the role of nurses, stating that they should not only be care providers but also educators and consultants, empowering patients to take control of their health. Dorothea Orem’s definition of nursing is viewed as a holistic approach, owing to its focus on promoting self-care behaviors that contribute to optimal health.

The essence of Dorothea Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory centers around the belief that individuals have unique needs and should be active participants in their care. This has shaped the way nurses interact with patients, encouraging a patient-centered approach that respects and acknowledges individual needs and capabilities.

12. Dorothy Johnson definition of nursing (Behavioral System Model)

Dorothy Johnson’s definition of nursing is a significant contribution to the field of healthcare, providing a framework that guides effective practice and research. Her definition emphasizes the crucial role of nurses in maintaining and restoring health, rather than merely treating diseases. According to Johnson, nursing is fundamentally about identifying the patients’ needs that require assistance and helping the individuals to achieve balance in their systems.

The essence of Dorothy Johnson’s definition of nursing is embedded in her “Behavioral System Model.” This model views the patient as a collection of behavioral subsystems that interact with the environment to maintain an overall state of equilibrium. According to Johnson, nurses are instrumental in identifying any imbalance within these subsystems and implementing measures to restore balance, thereby promoting health and well-being.

Dorothy Johnson’s definition of nursing underscores the proactive and holistic role of nurses. It highlights the importance of understanding the patient’s behavior as an integrated system, rather than just focusing on the physical symptoms. This perspective has significantly influenced nursing practice, education, and research, fostering a more comprehensive approach to patient care. Therefore, Johnson’s definition continues to serve as a fundamental guidepost in the evolving landscape of modern nursing.

13. Callista Roy definition of nursing (Adaptation Model)

Callista Roy’s definition of nursing is a significant contribution to the field of nursing theory and practice. Roy’s definition is rooted in the concept of adaptation, where she views nursing as a science and an art that promotes adaptation in individuals and groups.

According to Callista Roy’s definition of nursing, the primary objective of nursing is to enhance life processes through four modes of adaptation: physiological, self-concept, role function, and interdependence. Roy’s definition of nursing goes beyond just caring for the sick; it encompasses promoting health, preventing illness, and caring for the ill, disabled, and dying. In this view, patients are seen as holistic beings with physical, psychological, and social needs that require individualized care and attention.

This approach positions nurses as key facilitators in the adaptation process, which demands constant interaction between the patient and their environment. In essence, Callista Roy’s definition of nursing elevates the role of the nurse from a mere caregiver to an active participant in the patient’s health journey. This definition highlights the importance of understanding and addressing the unique needs of each patient to promote optimal health and well-being. It underscores the significance of integrating scientific knowledge with humanistic approaches in nursing care. It also emphasizes promoting a balance between humanistic values and technical expertise in nursing practice.

14. Madeline Leininger definition of nursing (Cultural Care Diversity and Universality Theory)

Madeline Leininger is a well-renowned nursing theorist renowned for her work on transcultural nursing. Madeline Leininger’s definition of nursing emphasizes the need for a comprehensive and culturally sensitive approach to providing nursing care. She believed that nursing should be more than just administering medications and performing routine procedures. It should involve a deep understanding of the patient’s cultural background and personal beliefs.

Leininger’s definition of nursing is based on her Culture Care Theory, which posits that effective nursing care requires knowledge and sensitivity toward a patient’s cultural values, beliefs, and practices. She argued that nurses should not only be equipped with medical competence, but also cultural competence. This involves the ability to effectively communicate with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds, and respect their religious beliefs, dietary habits, family dynamics, and other aspects of their culture that may influence their health and wellbeing.

Madeline Leininger’s theory underscores the need for culturally competent care in our increasingly diverse societies. She argued that by understanding and respecting a patient’s culture, nurses can provide care that is not only medically appropriate but also culturally congruent. This approach to nursing has been widely adopted and has significantly influenced modern nursing practices worldwide.

Conclusion: The Importance of Understanding the Evolving Definition of Nursing

As the field of nursing continues to evolve, nurses must understand the insights of nursing scholars and the evolving definition of nursing. By recognizing the contributions of scholars like Florence Nightingale, Hildegard Peplau, Virginia Henderson, and many others, nurses can gain a deeper understanding of their profession and provide more effective and holistic care to their patients. Embracing the evolving nature of nursing definitions empowers nurses to adapt to changing healthcare needs and deliver care that is patient-centered, culturally sensitive, and evidence-based.

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