NUR2203 Nursing Theory


The Bishop & Scudder article argues that nursing cannot be adequately expressed as a science or an art. Nursing described as a science or an art can be broad and ambiguous and by limiting nursing in the science/art parameters this restricts nursing as a practice. The article contends that nursing does not readily fit into the traditional definition of science as a quest for truth through theoretical explanation. Nor does nursing exclusively fit within the technology definition of appling scientific knowledge of the rational order of things to make changes in the world. Instead nursing uses various scientific interpretations when conducting nursing practice that include applied, human, empirical, and pragmatic sciences as well as traditional science with the ultimate goal of promoting the well-being of the patient. Nursing as an art bridges the science from nurse to patient in an artful way. Bishop & Scudder point out that the purpose of art is to create beauty, whereas the purpose of nursing is to nurture healing and promote wellness. To sum this up; science is pursuing truth and art is creating beauty. However, nursing as a practice is a practice that has an essential moral sense. The key factor here is the moral sense. Neither an art nor a science has an essential moral sense in the way that nursing does. Therefore, the authors state that nursing cannot be an art or a science because, rather than creating beauty or pursuing truth’, nursing seeks to foster healing, health, and well-being. Having a dominant moral sense is the primary characteristic of a practice. I do not completely agree with this final statement because I feel that science and art both can have a moral sense within the nursing context. However, in their conclusion the authors do admit that nursing is a practice that seeks to foster healing and wellness that sometimes involve applying science and other times artistic, creative care. I do agree that nursing involves both science and art that intertwines with nursing practice. The complexity of the nursing field makes it very difficult to confine its meaning within a few limited definitions and this article articulates that well.

In my nursing I utilize all elements described by the authors to the best of my ability. Science: knowledge, skill, evidence-based practice; Art: being present, therapeutic communication, compassion; Practice: bringing about good, understanding value worth pursuing, healing and wellness with a moral sense.

If the ontology of nursing is what we believe to be true about its existence, then surely there are many interpretations of nursing ontology. The Bishop and Scudder (1997) article strays from two of the most common interpretations, nursing as an art or nursing as a science, and rather views nursing as a practice. This practice does not exclude art and science, but rather incorporates these two aspects to make the unique practice we call nursing.

The authors state there is a tendency to refer to nursing as either a science or an art because clearly both of these are needed to be a nurse. We gain many years of formal education in addition to ongoing education throughout our careers in order to care for complex human beings, as well as strive to apply evidence to our practice- both of these align with calling nursing a science. It is also critical to be in tuned to the aesthetics of nursing and the subtleties that come along with this- understanding sometimes people just need someone to stay in the room with them or listening patiently while someone tells you important details rather than hurrying them- I have often thought that although these contributions may go unnoticed by some, they are important for the resilience of our patients.

When we try to define nursing strictly as a science or an art we risk missing the important, varied aspects that make up nursing. Understanding nursing as a practice allows us to incorporate art and science into our work, as well as the crucial other aspects such as holistic care, moral and ethical guidance, and theoretical tenets.

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