The Development of Nursing Theory

Discussion Nursing Theory Week 1. The development of nursing knowledge is an ongoing process. Discuss the case for the ongoing development and use of nursing grand theories and conversely, make a case for the obsolescence of nursing grand theories for today’s practice and research.

The Development of Nursing Theory
Nursing grand theories, first developed in the mid-20th century, were crucial for establishing nursing as a unique discipline and advancing the scientific basis of the profession (Fawcett & Desanto-Madeya, 2013). Theorists like Nightingale, Henderson, Rogers, Orlando, and Orem made pioneering contributions to conceptualizing the nurse’s role and the multidimensional nature of the patient’s experience of illness (Alligood, 2014). Their work helped shift nursing’s focus from a task-based medical model to a holistic, humanistic philosophy of care.
Grand theories also provided a common language and conceptual framework to guide nursing research and education. They helped define nursing’s body of knowledge and the types of problems most relevant to the discipline (McEwen & Wills, 2019). As a result, nursing gained legitimacy as an applied science with its own domain of study. The persistence of certain grand theories in modern curricula and literature attests to their enduring influence.
The Case for Ongoing Development
However, some argue that grand theories developed in earlier eras may not fully address today’s complex healthcare realities. The context of nursing practice has changed dramatically with advances in technology, shifting demographics, and restructuring of healthcare delivery models (Fawcett & Desanto-Madeya, 2013). Contemporary issues like genomics, chronic illness management, and population health demand new conceptual lenses.
Ongoing theory development allows the profession to refine its knowledge base and remain responsive to emerging needs. While grand theories provide a foundation, some experts argue for mid-range or practice theories with a narrower scope better suited to guiding research on specific problems (Smith & Liehr, 2014). The development of newer hybrid and middle-range theories has helped apply theoretical perspectives to diverse settings and patient populations.
The Potential for Obsolescence
At the same time, rigid adherence to dated grand theories risks overlooking valuable newer perspectives and restricting nursing’s ability to solve twenty-first century problems (McEwen & Wills, 2019). An overreliance on classical theories may hinder innovation if new issues do not map neatly onto old frameworks. The complexity of health challenges today requires an integrative, multidisciplinary approach not fully captured in early conceptual schemes.
However, completely abandoning established grand theories in favor of fragmented micro-theories could undermine nursing’s identity and philosophical foundations. A balanced view recognizes the enduring insights of nursing’s pioneers while cultivating ongoing theoretical evolution (Fawcett & Desanto-Madeya, 2013). An eclectic, pluralistic approach combining classic and contemporary theories may best serve to continually strengthen nursing knowledge and practice.
In summary, both the case for maintaining nursing grand theories and questioning their continued relevance hold merit depending on how such theories are applied. An integrative perspective valuing theoretical history alongside progress seems most conducive to nursing science’s growth and ability to address patients’ real-world needs. Ongoing scholarly discussion can help navigate these issues and ensure nursing theory’s dynamic relationship with practice.
Works Cited
Alligood, M. R. (2014). Nursing theorists and their work. Elsevier Health Sciences.
Fawcett, J., & Desanto-Madeya, S. (2013). Contemporary nursing knowledge: Analysis and evaluation of nursing models and theories. FA Davis. custom dissertation writing service.
McEwen, M., & Wills, E. M. (2019). Theoretical basis for nursing. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Smith, M. C., & Liehr, P. R. (Eds.). (2014). Middle range theory for nursing. Springer Publishing Company.

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