Our Name: Why Nursology? Why .net?

Why Nursology?

At least since the publication of Donaldson and Crowley’s (1978) seminal paper titled The Discipline of Nursing, nurses have been considered members of a discipline. A discipline (the term comes from the Latin disciplina) is a branch of instruction or  learning and is a way of organizing knowledge. Different disciplines are distinguished one from another by the subject matter of interest to their members. In what way does calling our discipline nursing convey a focus on knowledge development and testing, rather than, for example, breast feeding? Those of us involved in founding this web site agreed to use of the term, nursology, as the best way to convey this focus.

The term, nursology, comes from the Latin, Nutrix, [meaning] nurse; and from the Greek, Logos, [meaning] science (O’Toole, 2013, p. 1303). The first mention of nursology apparently is by Paterson, an American nurse, in her 1971 journal article. She coined the term, nursology, “to designate the study of nursing aimed towards the development of nursing theory” (p. 143). Roper (1976), a Scottish nurse, also referred to our discipline as nursology. She explained,

“It could be that nursing might develop as a discipline without using a word to describe its characteristic mode of thinking, but it will have to make the mode explicit and it will have to have the same meaning for nurses anywhere. Should the nursing profession require to use a word, I propose the word nursology for the study of nursing, so that the logical pattern of derivation of an adverb could be followed. (p. 227)

Fitzpatrick (2014) pointed out that use of the term, nursology, as the name for the discipline has not been supported by nurses, although “remnants of this minor movement appear today. Students in current doctoral-level nursing theory classes often express interest in the term as a way to legitimize the scientific enterprise and distinguish nursing science from other disciplines, particularly [other] health disciplines” (p. 5).

Nursology is not only a name for our discipline. It also is regarded and has been used as a research method and a practice method (Fawcett et al., 2015). The name for our schools and department and programs most properly, also is nursology. The members of our discipline—students, practicing nurses, researchers, educators, and administrators—are scholars of nursology, that is, nursologists. Noteworthy is that Josephine Paterson (1978) and Loretta Zderad (1978) held the formal title of nursologists while at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Northport, New York. As nursologists, we clearly no longer regard ourselves or can be regarded by others as handmaidens to physicians, who are members of the trade of medicine (medicine cannot be regarded as a discipline due to no evidence of distinctive knowledge).

Why .net?
.net was selected as the extension for the web site name to,  as Peggy Chinn pointed out, convey a network of nurses who are interested in learning about all things theoretical in nursology, including advances in the knowledge needed and used by nurses to guide their practice.


Donaldson, S. K., & Crowley, D. M. (1978). The discipline of nursing. Nursing Outlook, 26, 113-120.

Fawcett, J., Aronowitz, T., AbuFannouneh, A., Al Usta, M., Fraley, H. E., Howlett, M. S. L., . . . Zhang, Y. (2015). Thoughts about the name of our discipline. Nursing Science Quarterly, 28, 330-333.

Fitzpatrick, J. J. (2014). The discipline of nursing. In J. J. Fitzpatrick & G. McCarthy (Eds.), Theories guiding nursing research and practice: Making nursing knowledge development explicit (pp. 3-13). New York: Springer.

O’Toole, M. (Ed.) (2013). Mosby’s medical dictionary (9th ed.). St.Louis: Mosby.
Paterson, J. G. (1971). From a philosophy of clinical nursing to amethod of nursology. Nursing Research, 20, 143-146.

Paterson, J. G. (1978). The tortuous way toward nursing theory. In Theory development: What, why, how? (pp. 49-65). New York, NY: National League for Nursing. (Pub. No. 15-1708)

Roper, N. (1976). A model for nursing and nursology. Journal ofAdvanced Nursing, 1, 219-227.

Zderad, L. T. (1978). From here -and-now to theory: Reflections on“how.” In Theory development: What, why, how? (pp. 35-48).New York< NY: National League for Nursing. (Pub. No. 15-1708)

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