Nursing Theory or Nursing Philosophy?

Grad school makes you look into things that you normally wouldn’t look into.   The key is to look into it with an open mind.  When I started  in this business nursing theory wasn’t as big a deal as it is today.  To be honest, I’ve always thought that nursing “theory” was nothing more than an academic exercise by Doctoral candidates in nursing.  Mental masturbation as it were.

As I was forced to read nursing theories I had an epiphany.  It’s not that nursing theories are inherently bad, the problem is they aren’t theories, they are philosophies.    The only theorist that I had any respect for was Patricia Benner.  Her theory on Novice to Expert seemed to make sense.   As an educator I saw it played out on daily basis.

However she lost a little credibility when I started researching clinical education and found that there really wasn’t anything new in her theory.  About 4 years prior to her publishing hers the Dreyfus Model of skill acquisition was published.  As I looked farther into it.  You can actually find references from the middle ages as part of the old guild system and the apprentice, journeyman system.

As I looked farther my own thoughts on nursing theory have started to develop.   They aren’t really theories.   They cant stand up the rigorous scrutiny that true scientific theories have to.  The level of peer review is minuscule.   Now at this point I”m not going to say they are totally useless.   I’m starting to see them more as a philosophy and not a theory.  As a philosophy, grey area’s are more acceptable.  The one concept in he Dreyfus/Benner model is the concept of intuition.  I have a hard time accepting the term intuition as something not based on scientific fact.

Well it’s off to study and read some more.  The kicker to this is. I’m having to come up with my own theory.   I’m going to refuse to use the word theory and use the term philosophy.


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