First described by Paterson in 1971, the term nursology was originally coined to capture the essence of “the study of nursing aimed towards the development of nursing theory” (p. 143). Since this definition, nursing scholars have continued discourse around the name of our discipline. In 1997, for example, Reed suggested a name change from a verb, nursing, to a noun, nursology, while still retaining nursing within the metaparadigm. In 2015, Fawcett and colleagues re-presented the idea of changing the name of the discipline of nursing to nursology. Again in 2019, the term emerged as a topic for discussion at the Case Western Nursing Theory Conference.
To understand the perspectives of nurses on the use of the term nursology, an informal Twitter* poll was conducted by the Nursology Theory Collective asking the question, “what do you think about using the term Nursology instead of nursing to describe our discipline?” Twitter polls enable individuals to voluntarily respond to questions posed by individuals or organizations on Twitter (Twitter, 2020), and are not meant to be scientific. The informal poll also included the ability for nurses to comment and share their thoughts on the topic. All participants, but one, gave permission for the use of their write-in responses to be included in this blog post. Only participants who gave permission were included in this post.
A total of 34 responses were received with six comments; not all of the participants were current followers of the Nursology Theory Collective. The responses revealed that 32% of participants thought that Nursology as the name of our discipline made sense, whereas 27% were unsure. 41% of participants responded that they were not supportive of Nursology as the name for the discipline.
For the write-in responses, participants shared various reasons they were in favor of or opposed to, the name change. The use of the suffix -ology seemed to represent a primary concern for participants. For example, one participant stated, “using the term -ology feels like it discounts the art of nursing. It is a science and an art. It’s more than biology, physiology and psychology. It’s about the whole not the sum of parts!” Comparably, another participant in favor of the change stated, “as disciplines have specialized areas within the “ology”. How about nursing practice, nursing education, nursing science as some examples for us within the ology?” Others suggested that utilizing the suffix of -ology “feels like an attempt to assimilate into an existing hierarchy of medical disciplines, instead of a staking out of nursing knowledge as more than another silo-ing of medical ology, but as an entirely different paradigm…” Lastly, while some commented that they liked the term nursology and looked forward to learning more from the group, others expressed concerns that Nursology as a term “suggests disciplinary insecurity,” conveying the idea that nurses somehow do not see ourselves as legitimate as we are, investing energy in an endeavor that ultimately changes little about the work we do.
While more voters opposed adopting the term ”nursology” than were in favor of adopting it, 27% of voters were neutral to the change. This suggests that nurses may not have strong feelings about the name nursing for our discipline as it stands today, or perhaps the term was too new to them. One of the participants raised concerns of “disciplinary insecurity,” potentially supporting the idea that nurses may need to examine what it means to practice nursing versus study nursing as a body of knowledge, a stance that very well could reinscribe the theory-practice gap. Alternatively, this finding may support that nurses are open to change, but need more information in order to make an appropriate judgment. Nursing scholars should take this as an opportunity to open discussions with nurses outside of academia, especially in the practice environment, and publish relevant literature to stimulate future discourse on the name of our discipline.
Finally, the write-in responses raise the concern related to the use of the suffix -ology. As expressed by one of the participants, this suffix is commonly used in the medical sciences, but this suffix does not originate in medicine (e.g., Geology and Mythology). The question is then raised why the suffix -ology is so controversial? One of the participants discussed how the use of -ology discounts the art of nursing, although they expressed nursing is still a science. Perhaps nurses today with their understanding of nursing and nursology, see nursing as the art, and nursology as the substantive study of nursing? Further discourse and individual reflection are needed on this topic as we navigate the perceived duality that exists among art and science, nursing and nursology, and nurse and nursologist. The question then becomes, is every nurse a nursologist?
For more information on the Nursology Theory Collective, please email us as firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us at @NursingTheoryCo on Twitter.
*Twitter is a microblogging and social media networking platform where individuals and organizations interact and message each other using “tweets,” 140-character messages designed for brevity and quick exchange of ideas. Please see the following link for more information: https://about.twitter.com/en_us.html
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. doi: 10.1177/0894318415599224
Paterson, J. G. (1971). From a philosophy of clinical nursing to a method of nursology. Nursing Research, 20(2), 143-146. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/5205160-from-a-philosophy-of-clinical-nursing-to-a-method-of-nursology/
Reed, P. G. (1997). Nursing: The ontology of the discipline. Nursing Science Quarterly, 10, 76-79. doi: 10.1177/089431849701000207
Twitter. (2020). About twitter polls. Retrieved from https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/twitter-polls