Confronting Cultural Noise Pollution

Much earlier in my career a group of colleagues and I conducted a survey published in the American Journal of Nursing that addressed friendship in nursing*.  We were motivated to confront the message that nurses are their own worst enemies, and not friends. The results of the survey affirmed that although the message persists, and sometimes accurately describes relationships and interactions, there is ample evidence that nurses are more often than not our own best supporters and friends. I call these kinds of repeated negative messages cultural noise pollution that obscure the realities of the more accurate and complete situation – messages that obscure what is real and what is possible.

We created Nursology.net with a  similar motivation to confront the often repeated message that nursing theory is irrelevant, not necessary, or too abstract to be useful in practice.  These messages obscure the realities of the vital importance of nursing knowledge in the context of systems that serve to address the healthcare needs of our time.  They interrupt serious consideration, discussion and thought concerning who we are as nurses, what we are really all about, and why we persist in our quest to improve our practice. Failing to recognize the value of our own discipline’s knowledge, we fall prey to serving the interests of others, and neglect our own interests.

My favorite pithy definition of theory is this – theory is a vision.  Theory provides a view of concrete realities that makes it possible to mentally construct all sorts of dimensions that are not obvious to our limited perception of a situation in the moment.  It provides ways to understand how a particular “thing” comes about, what it means, what might happen next,  how the trajectory of a situation might unfold, and how human actions might change that trajectory.   In the practice of nursing, this is precisely what we are all about – we take a close look at a situation that presents a health challenge, we set about to understand what is going on beneath the surface, we examine evidence related to the situation, and we chart a course of action that might move the situation in a way that would not otherwise be possible.  People in other healthcare disciplines are doing much the same thing, but we have a nursing lens through which we as nurses view the situation.  Our  lens determines what we deem to be important in the evolution of the situation, and shapes the sensibilities we bring to the actions we take.  Our lens derives from nursology – the knowledge of the discipline.

If you take even a brief tour of Nursology.net, you will soon see that nursing theories, models and philosophies represent a coherent message focused on visions of health and well-being in the face of complex, sometimes tragic,  health challenges. You will also find a vast diversity of lenses that give a particular focus on this central message.  Some of the lenses give us a vision that is a lofty “30-thousand foot altitude” view. Some of the lenses focus in more closely on particular aspects of health challenges. There is no “right or wrong,” “better or worse.” Each lens simply brings about a different vision. Just as a camera can bring a different tone, hue or filter to see a single image in different ways, our nursing theories open possibilities and alternatives that would never be possible if we did not have the various lenses through which to view the situations we encounter. Taken together, these theories, models, philosophies form an ever-expanding nursology. Our theories, models and philosophies open possibilities for practice that can make a huge difference in the lives of real people.

We have an amazing, vast and rich heritage of nursing knowledge – and we are nowhere near done with the task!  Our vision for Nursology.net is to document and honor the serious knowledge-work that has been accomplished in the past, draw on this foundation, and inspire new directions that are yet unimagined!  We hope nurses everywhere, regardless of how or where you practice as a nurse, will join us in this journey, and add your voice to help shape what is possible! And importantly, we invite you to join us in confronting the negative, self-destructive effects of various forms of cultural noise pollution that cloud our vision!

*Friendship Study references

Chinn, P. L., Wheeler, C. E., Roy, A., Berrey, E. R., & Madsen, C. (1988). Friends on friendship. The American journal of nursing, 88, 1094–1096.

Chinn, P. L., Wheeler, C. E., Roy, A., & Mathier, E. (1987). Just between friends: AJN friendship survey. The American journal of nursing, 87, 1456–1458.

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