Nursing Theorists

Nursing, within the last century, has changed significantly from having a focus on skills and tasks alone to including a basis in theory. Through the application of nursing theories into actual nursing practice the nursing profession now encompasses much more depth and understanding of what a professional nurse looks like and how this nurse should provide and care for patients. This wiki presents four of the most influential nursing theorists that have helped to create and shape the present views on health and healing and ultimately the professional practice of many nurses.

Florence Nightingale florencenightingale.jpg

Figure 1. Portrait of Florence Nightingale (1920). Source:

Florence Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing (Ross-Kerr, 2009, p. 29). Florence was brought up in a wealthy family where women were not allowed to work and it was therefore against her family’s wishes when she decided to pursue nursing (p. 29). Florence was thirty-one before her family unwillingly agreed for her to train as a nurse (MacQueen, 2007, p. 30). In 1851, she went to Germany to the deaconess institute in Kaiserswerth, where she trained for three months (MacQueen, 2007, p. 30). It was during the Crimean War of 1854-56, that Florence Nightingale’s nursing of the soldiers made her stand out and she was considered a legend before she arrived back in England (MacQueen, 2007, p. 30). Unfortunately, she arrived home exhausted from the work and became ill for the rest of her life (MacQueen, 2007, p. 30). Florence continued to carry out her nursing work that she was so passionate about and despite her limitations she reformed the military medical system as well as published her famous book in 1859 called “Notes on Nursing”(MacQueen, 2007, p. 31). In her book “Notes on Nursing”, she expanded on her definitions of nursing and provided information regarding ventilation and warming, cleanliness, noise, light, beds and bedding, personal cleanliness and food (MacQueen, 2007, p. 31).

Sister Simone Roach

Sister Simone Roach, (1992), states that caring is the human mode of being (p.2). Roach (1992) discusses how people in healthcare professions care for others not because they are required to do so by their jobs, but because they are human beings and this trait of caring is intrinsic to all humans (p. 3). According to Roach (1992) caring is the underlying concept that forms the basis of what nurses do each and every day (p. 17).

Roach (1992) posed an interesting question during her work on caring. This question is: What is a nurse actually doing when he or she is caring? The six C’s of caring have been developed by Simone Roach (2002) in response to this question (p.43). These six C’s are described as attributes of caring that aid in identifying the specific caring behaviours that a nurse engages in when providing care for a patient (p.58). The six C’s are as follows:

1. Compassion
2. Competence
3. Confidence
4. Conscience
5. Commitment
6. Comportment

The six C’s of caring are intended to be goals that a nurse can strive towards when providing care (p. 66). Roach (2002) discusses how nurses that base their caring approach on this broad framework of the six C’s, will have the opportunity to provide profound and virtuous care that encompasses largely what a professional nurse should be (p. 66)

Patricia Benner


Figure 3. Photograph of Patricia Benner (2009). Source: db/67/3208.jpg

Within her practice, Patricia Benner was not focused on how to be a nurse, however she was more concerned about how nurses acquire their nursing knowledge (Swingshift Nurses, 2009). After a few years of experience on an intensive care unit, Benner began studying at the University of California in order to research the path in which individuals grew into nurses (Swingshift Nurses, 2009). With this, she was able to apply the Dreyfus model of acquisition and development to nursing, in that with experience, a nurse is able to expand their knowledge and grow (Swingshift Nurses, 2009). She believed that experience within a profession and reflection upon that experience allows nurses to develop their nursing knowledge to become an expert in their field (Benner, Tanner & Chesla, 2009, p. xiii).

Benner (2009) based her theory upon the Dreyfus model, which consists of the following five steps:
1.) Novice
2.) Advanced Beginner
3.) Competent
4.) Proficient
5.) Expert

Benner (2009) goes into detail describing the ways that nurses acquire the knowledge that is essential to reach the expert stage (p. 114). She believes the most important way a nurse can enhance their practice is through experience (Swingshift Nurses, 2009). With this, in order to advance between the stages, nurses should utilize reflection to gain the knowledge they require (Benner et al., 2009, p. 77). The stages within the Dreyfus model have become the basis which Benner has deemed essential for a nurse to move from being novice to becoming an expert (Swingshift Nurses, 2009).

Jean Watson


Figure 4: Jean Watson (n.d.). Source:

Jean Watson is an American professor in the field of nursing and psychology (Cara, 2003). She earned her undergraduate degree in nursing and went on to earn a PhD in educational psychology and counseling (Cara, 2003).

The Caritas Processes are one of the fundamentals that Watson (as cited in Cara, 2003) uses within her caring theory (p. 2). The Caritas Processes encompass aspects of caring, love, compassion and disciplines within the practices of nursing (Cara, 2003). According to Watson (2003), displaying factors of caring will help nurses feel a sense of job satisfaction (Cara, 2003). Watson’s caring theory enables nurses to incorporate concepts of caring within their practice (Cara, 2003). By practicing caring, nurses will not only be able to ease patients’ suffering, however it will also help establish hope and faith in acheiving healing (Cara, 2003). The process will help patients attain and achieve wholeness (Cara, 2003).

To view Watson's 10 Carative Factors, access the following link:


Benner, P., Tanner, C., and Chesla, C. (2009). Expertise in Nursing Practice: Caring, Clinical Judgement and Ethics (2nd Ed). New York: Springer.

Cara, C. (2003). Continuing education: A pragmatic view of jean Watson’s caring theory. International Journal for Human Caring. 7(3) 51-61.

Florence Nightingale [Online Image - Portrait]. (1920). Retrieved December 2, 2009, from Wikipedia.

Jean Watson [Online Image- Photograph]. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2009, from

MacQueen, J., S. (2007). Florence Nightingale's nursing practice. Nursing History Review. 15, 29-49

Patricia Benner [Online Image- Photograph]. (2009). Retrieved December 3, 2009, from

Swingshift Nurses. (2009). Theories: Pat Benner. Retrieved November 23, 2009, from

Roach, S. (1992). The human act of caring: A blueprint for the health professions (revised edition). Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Hospital Association Press.
Roach, S. (2002). Caring, the human mode of being: A blueprint for the health professions (2nd revised edition). Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Hospital Association Press.

Ross-Kerr, J. C. (2009). The development of nursing in Canada. In J. C. Ross-Kerr & M. J. (Eds.), Canadian fundamentals of nursing (4th edition), (p. 29). Canada: Elsevier.

Watson, J. (2008) The philosophy and science of caring. Boulder, Colorado: University Press of Colorado. 30.