Humanistic nursing theory

Written by sandy keefe
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Nursing theories offer an organised and systemic way to express statements related to questions in nursing, providing nurses with the opportunity to describe, predict, explain and control phenomenon related to their practice (See Reference 1). Humanistic nursing theories are based on the belief that patients have the potential for self-actualisation and can grow in a healthy and creative way (See Reference 2).

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Humanists believe nursing care is a two-way interaction between the nurse and patient, with the actions of both influencing the outcomes (See Reference 3).


Humanistic nursing theories emphasise the uniqueness of individuals and use phenomenological descriptions of each nursing situation from the point of view of the nurse, the patient response and the interaction between nurse and patient (See Reference 3).


Originally developed by Josephine Paterson and Loretta Zderad, humanistic nursing theories now include Patricia Benner's From Novice to Expert model and Jean Watson's Caring Theory (See Reference 3).


Because they acknowledge the uniqueness of individuals and interactions between the nurse and her patient, humanistic nursing theories help nurses blend both the art and the science of their profession. They emphasise the importance of caring as a key component of nursing practice.

Application to Practice

Several humanistic nursing theories, such as Benner's model of how a novice nurse progresses to an expert through time, have been successfully incorporated into nursing practice and education in a wide variety of clinical settings.

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