Human Theory of Caring Essay

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Theory guides practice. This is true of many things, but is especially true of nursing. While many processes, actions, and rules are involved in becoming a great nurse, understanding and applying theory must be the most important aspect. Nursing theory allows for one to examine concepts and then attempt practical application of these concepts when theories are tested. Evidence-based practice for example, is the wonderful lovechild of theory and application in that when theories are constructed, they are then tested, and if they work, are applied to standard practice via modification. This essay aims to provide a deeper synthesis of nursing theory by examining two important nursing theories: Orem's Self-care Theory and Watsons Nursing Theory. Additionally, one will see how nursing theory has evolved since its beginnings.

Background on Nursing Theory

Many say nursing is as old as humankind. If there was someone sick, there was someone willing to take care of that person and nurse them back to health. The word ‘nurse’ comes from the Anglo French nurice as well as the Latin nutrica. Both words mean nourish. Nurses nourish the patient emotionally, mentally, and physically and provide for them the means of getting back to good health (Parker & Smith, 2015). When looking at nursing theory, the purpose of it, is to help one comprehend the process of nursing and improve one’s own thinking related to nursing. “The purpose of nursing theory goes beyond its study within courses. Nursing theory becomes alive when the ideas are brought to practice. The usefulness of theory in practice is one way that we judge its value and worth” (Parker & Smith, 2015, p. 27).

Many theories exist out there in various fields. Nursing is no different. It is up to the person to decide which theory to apply to one’s own thinking and practice. It is helpful to examine theories via primary sources or the work of prominent scholars that have studies selected theories. Back then theory was the only thing that kept nursing going in the sense that nursing and healthcare in general demanded constant improvement, innovation.

Improvement and innovation cannot be done unless theory is involved. Even now, there are constant new nursing theories surfacing that could one day end up responsible for standard practice and care. For example, emergency nursing, this is something that requires quick thinking and a plethora of knowledge of various ailments. Without theory, one has no direction to take to explore the different avenues of what it is to be a nurse.

William K. Cody is a respected and well-known contributor to Nursing Science Quarterly. In one of his articles he discusses nursing theory. Cody opens with stating how convinced he is theory guides practice. This is significant to note because some people may say that practice guides theory. But, as Cody and others before him suggested, it is the opposite.

To assert the alternative, that theory arises from practice to an equal or greater extent than theory guides practice, would be a misrepresentation of the contemporary art and science of nursing theory development. In actuality, this assertion has been made widely and, I would venture to say, that is to the detriment of theory development in nursing (Cody, 2003, p. 225).

Practice comes from thought, process of thought is the foundation of theory. This is not a chicken or egg scenario. One thinks something and then it becomes real through practice. Sure, theories are tested and then people implement sound theories into nursing. But the first is always the initial thought.

Nursing theory has evolved more than ever before in recent times and has become a main way to provide better patient care. What also come about from theory is a new mode of thinking that is based on theory, evidence-based practice. One article stated that nurse educators and nurses must embrace both theory-based practice and evidence-based practice because they have their benefits when it comes to improvement and innovation (McCrae, 2012). In fact, one can consider evidence-based practice a step further from theory-based practice in that, one must cultivate a theory and then implement, and gain evidence of its usefulness and effectiveness in practice. Practice does not exist without theory and people are beginning to truly see that now.

They may see that through Carr’s four principal approaches that explain the nature of theory. “Carr terms these approaches the 'common-sense' approach, the 'applied-science' approach, the 'practical' approach and the 'critical' approach. Each approach is recoverable from the explicit and implicit content of scholarly literature” (Fealy, 1999, p. 74). The common-sense approach is a way to locate or ground theory within commonsense and is articulated in the world of practice. Practice allows it to be refined, reconstructed, and then validated (Ghaye & Lillyman, 2014).

An applied science approach means conforming to standards of validity, reliability, and vigor as it is laid down by ‘science’. The practical approach allows for nourishing of practical clinical wisdom. This approach is used to support and inform clinical decisions (Ghaye & Lillyman, 2014). A critical approach allows one to see through theory, why a practice is the way it is. This approach takes into consideration how political, social, and historical forces serve to constrain or liberate what is done. Seeing theory from these perspectives, one can see how nursing theory is integral to everything, especially evidence-based practice.

Orem's Self-care Theory

Orem’s self-care theory or Self-care deficit nursing theory or Orem’s Model of Nursing, is a grand nursing theory developed by Dorothea Orem between 1959 and 2001. The theory stems from totality paradigm based on adaptation to one’s environment (Masters, 2014).
Thanks to this theory there has been improved quality of care from numerous randomized controlled trials carried out in the nursing discipline. Many use this theory especially in primary care and rehabilitation settings where patients are encouraged to strive for independence.

That is one of the main caveats of the theory when applied to primary care or rehabilitative settings. To have patients achieve independence as soon as possible part of the adaptation aspect of the theory. Human beings have the amazing ability to adapt to their surroundings. Therefore, creating an environment where they can achieve independence quickly may produce better results, better outcomes.

Orem herself, described the model as a general theory consisting of three related theories. “The three inter-related theories include the theory of self-care, the theory of self-care deficit, and the theory of nursing systems” (Masters, 2014, p. 154). These three parts of theory focus not on the individual, rather on persons in relations. The emphasis is on the ‘I’, the ‘you and me’, and the ‘we’. When applying these three theories together, it generates Orem’s personal theory. Meaning, if there is no one there to care for the patient, there is a model that exists for self-care.

Imagining how this can be applied to my practice as an emergency department nurse, there are patients often that must wait hours to be seen. In their state of pain and anxiety, a nurse can come over and help them get over such a frazzled state. The nurse can teach the patient for example, to elevate a leg if it is in pain, or take deep breaths if one is anxious. These things teach the patient independence and allows them to adapt to the current situation.

There is the expectation in the theory that patients want to take care of themselves. When they are permitted to take care of themselves to the best of their ability, the assumption is that they recover quicker and holistically. Orem in her theory, identified self-care requisites and are classified as either:

· Developmental self-care requisites that are 1 of 2 things, maturational: progress toward higher levels of maturation and situational: aversion of deleterious effects associated with development

· Universal self-care requisites: those needs everyone has

· Health deviation requisites: needs arising from a patient’s condition (Parker, 1993).

There are also self-care deficits that mean a person cannot meet his or her own self-care requisites. This is when the nurse determines these deficits and defines support modalities.

Bringing this back to my practice, there can be patient who is obese and needs his blood pressure measured. He is writhing in pain and cannot sit still to take the reading. Now because of the person’s weight, a regular pressure cuff cannot fit, so a larger one can be used. The nurse has to determine if the patient can sit still or not. If not due to pain, the nurse can give the patient a pain killer to then take the reading.

Some recent literature points to a long time before patients receive pain relief for injuries in the emergency department. “The median time to pain medication administration for patients presenting to our ED with extremity fractures was 72.5 minutes” (Heilman, Tanski, Burns, Lin, & Ma, 2016, p. 1). If the patient is suffering an extremity fracture, there should be a shorter window of time to administer pain medication. While theoretically, this seems viable, practicality may lend to a different interpretation. But that is the point of nurse theory and theories like Orem’s. It is to think differently and see where it leads.

At times patients cannot support themselves and experience self-care deficits. That is where Orem’s theory includes support modalities. Meaning, nurses are encouraged to recognize and rate a patient’s dependency or any of identified self-care deficits on the following scale:

1. Partial Compensation

2. Total Compensation

3. Education/Supportive (Meleis, 2012).

Total compensation is when there is an utter lack of independence on the part of the patient. This means the nurse needs to assist the patient in everything. Partial Compensatory, means a patient can do some things like for example, go to the bathroom on their own, but needs help to walk. Educative/Supportive, in this system, means a patient is independent, but needs assistance in behavior control, decision-making, as well as getting hold of information (Meleis, 2012) (Abotalebidariasari, Memarian, Vanaki, Kazemnejad, & Naderi, 2016).

If this were to be seen through my practice, three patients could be in the emergency department. One is bedridden and cannot move because of recent surgery. This person needs complete help in everything. Another person, who underwent minor surgery needs help with bathing but can take his or her own medication. And the last one, a patient experiencing an infection, that just needs an education on proper antibiotics.

Orem described a nurse in terms of a counselor, advocator, educator and teacher. This is true.….....

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Abotalebidariasari, G., Memarian, R., Vanaki, Z., Kazemnejad, A., & Naderi, N. (2016). Self-Care Agency Power Components Among Patients with Heart Failure: A Qualitative Directed Content Analysis Based on the Orem Self-Care Theory. Journal of Critical Care Nursing, 30(4), 320-332. doi:10.17795/ccn-9150

Arslan-Özkan, ?., Okumu?, H., & Bulduko?lu, K. (2013). A randomized controlled trial of the effects of nursing care based on Watson's Theory of Human Caring on distress, self-efficacy and adjustment in infertile women. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70(8), 1801-1812. doi:10.1111/jan.12338

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Butts, J. B., & Rich, K. L. (2017). Philosophies And Theories For Advanced Nursing Practice. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Clark, C. (2016). Watson’s Human Caring Theory: Pertinent Transpersonal and Humanities Concepts for Educators. Humanities, 5(2), 21. doi:10.3390/h5020021

Cody, W. K. (2003). Nursing Theory as a Guide to Practice. Nursing Science Quarterly, 16(3), 225-231. doi:10.1177/0894318403016003013

Dickson, V. V., Buck, H., & Riegel, B. (2011). A Qualitative Meta-Analysis of Heart Failure Self-Care Practices Among Individuals With Multiple Comorbid Conditions. Journal of Cardiac Failure, 17(5), 413-419. doi:10.1016/j.cardfail.2010.11.011

Fealy, G. M. (1999). The theory-practice relationship in nursing: the practitioners' perspective. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 30(1), 74-82. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2648.1999.01051.x

Ghaye, T., & Lillyman, S. (2014). Reflection: Principles and Practices for Heathcare Professionals. Andrews UK Limited.

Heilman, J. A., Tanski, M., Burns, B., Lin, A., & Ma, J. (2016). Decreasing Time to Pain Relief for Emergency Department Patients with Extremity Fractures. BMJ Quality Improvement Reports, 5(1), u209522.w7251. doi:10.1136/bmjquality.u209522.w7251

Kim, H. S., Kollak, I., IG Publishing, & Springer Publishing Company. (2006). Nursing theories: Conceptual & philosophical foundations. New York, NY: Springer Pub. Co.

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