The Epistemology of Nursology: One Perspective

On May 12, 2021, I was honored to present the keynote address for the 2nd International Videoconference Forum, “The Epistemology of Nursing Knowledge: Its Importance in Times of Pandemic,” sponsored by the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, in Puebla, México. The topic I had been asked to address was the epistemology of our discipline. Although I certainly do not consider myself an epistemologist, I accepted the challenge of articulating my version of the epistemology of nursology.

The complete presentation is available below. A summary of the presentation is given here.

Inasmuch as epistemology refers to a theory of knowledge (Zander, 2007), I described the theory of nursology knowledge as embracing and “epistemological plurality . . . [that reflects] . . . a commitment to recognizing different ways of knowing to support [nursology’s disciplinary] mandate to consider the individual holistically and in context” (Ou et al., 2017, p. 7).
Epistemology is concerned with

  • Beliefs about the knowledge
  • The knowledge
  • The truth of the knowledge
  • Justification for the knowledge

My Beliefs about the Knowledge of Nursology

I and at least some other nursologists believe the epistemology of nursology includes a metaparadigm, philosophies, conceptual models, theories, and methods of scholarly inquiry. I acknowledge multiple versions of the metaparadigm; my version is human beings, environment, health, and nursologists’ activities. I believe that multiple philosophies, conceptual models, theories (grand theories, middle-range theories, situation-specific theories), and methods of scholarly inquiry are recognized as valid knowledge about our discipline. I also believe that the findings of every instance of scholarly inquiry constitute a theory, and that methods of scholarly inquiry encompass historical, philosophical, and empirical methods, all of which can include qualitative (subjective) and quantitative (objective) approaches.

The Knowledge

My understanding of the knowledge of nursology encompasses five ways of knowing – tenacity, authority, a priori, practice/practice wisdom, and theory—as well as eight fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing—empirical, aesthetic, ethical, personal, sociopolitical, emancipatory, spiritual, and unknowing.

The Truth of the Knowledge

My understanding of the truth of nursology knowledge is that “acting in the best interests of the people for whom [nursologists] care requires valuing both subjective and objective ways of knowing” (Zander, 2007, p. 7), and that the nursology scholarly methods of inquiry encompass both the objective (quantitative) and the subjective (qualitative). Both objective and subjective knowledge can be explicit or implicit/tacit.

Justification for the Knowledge

I maintain that methods for obtaining both objective and subjective knowledge are needed for “multidimensional understanding of the client within the context of situation, family and environment” (Ou et al., 2017, p. 7), which is best determined by conduct of scholarly inquiry for the purpose of development of situation-specific theories. In keeping with the conference theme, my presentation also included content about decolonizing nursology knowledge, which may be accomplished by revising or discarding the existing metaparadigm, philosophies, conceptual models, and theories to eliminate the current dominant Euro-centric worldviews of white privilege (Chinn, 2021).

Additional Comments

My presentation also included these suggestions for attaining social justice.

  • Develop new knowledge of how to increase planetary health equity and reduce or eliminate planetary health disparities
  • Develop new knowledge of how to eliminate structural and systematic racism

I agree with Chinn (2021) that much of the work of decolonizing and social justice can be achieved through an emphasis on development of situation-specific theories by inviting people to tell their stories of their health experiences. The stories than can be analyzed within the context of the situation and the people’s culture, with attention to avoiding stereotyping of the story-tellers on the basis of their culture. Decolonizing nursology knowledge and focusing on social justice also can be achieved through developing knowledge that “is an interchange between [culturally and contextually relevant] theory and practice and [is] guided by [culturally and contextually relevant] philosophy is like a kind of pendulum where all three elements [[culturally and contextually relevant] philosophy, theory, practice] are treated as equals” (Hoeck & Delmar, 2018, p. 1).


I believe it is crucial to the survival of nursology that we think and act on the basis of our five ways of knowing and a synthesis of our eight types of theories always and especially at this time of the pandemic, when so much emphasis is on doing tasks without sufficient attention to the why of the tasks beyond the pragmatic.


Chinn, P. L. (2021). Equity and social justice in developing theories. In E-O Im & A. I. Meleis (Eds.), Situation specific theories: Development, utilization, and evaluation in nursing (pp. 29-37). Springer Nature Switzerland.

Epistemology (2021, June 13).
Hoeck, B., & Delmar, C. (2018). Theoretical development in the context of nursing—The hidden epistemology of nursing theory. Nursing Philosophy, 19(1), 10 pages.

Ou, C. H. K., Hall, W. A., & Thorne, S. E. (2017). Can nursing epistemology embrace p-values? Nursing Philosophy, 18(4), 9 pages. https://doi.or/10.1111/nup12173

Zander, P. E. (2007). Ways of knowing in nursing. The historical evolution of a concept. Journal of Theory Construction and Testing, 11(1), 7-11.

The slides can also be viewed here

Selling Theory

He lounged in the chair, laptop nestled in his lap. “Here, look at this,” he waived toward his screen.

I bent over, squinting, and saw a colorful graph of lines that reminded me of a holiday decoration. “It’s a stochastic model of cellular growth….” He went on to mention the conditions that were being modeled, and I marveled at how these predictions were created.

He turned to face me. “You know, the problem with social sciences (and nursing) is it’s too imprecise. You can’t replicate the studies and find the same results. The conclusions tend to way over-estimate the sample from which the data are drawn. Your theories don’t really reflect science.”

I studied his face and tried to determine whether he was serious. He knew my work and was aware of my approach to theory as a conduit to build science and expand knowledge. I am steeped in the Continental philosophy of human science; I believe in the Truth, but also with humans living different realities and how our personal narratives intersect to create the political. I believe that language not only reflects reality, it creates it. I subscribe to the notion that discourse is important to deconstruct as power relations (hegemonies) embedded in them are often unnoticed without such analysis.

Perhaps I was taking the conversation too seriously, but such science as this young man described and the data science paradigm are oozing – flooding really – into crevices of thought and science at a pace that makes me queasy. The battle of the empirical way of knowing overshadowing other ways of knowing (Chinn & Kramer, 2018) is amplified in the call to harness the seemingly infinite data collected daily that is supposed to tell us something of the human condition. What are these data trying to tell us? Patterns may be revealed without hypotheses. Theories were unnecessary for machine learning as one statistician told me, “You use machine learning when you don’t know what you’re going to find.”

This seems heretical for a theorist. I wanted to sell theory even harder.

In automatic cognitive reactions, I convey to those around me how important theory is — that the use of theory can inform, organize, and enlighten. I thought of Sarah Szanton and Jessica Gill’s (2010) work, Society-to-Cells Resilience Theory – could it be applied to stochastic methods? I thought of other times when I “sold” theory:

  • One of my colleagues asked for input on a community engagement proposal in the context of substance use and stigma within rural communities. I steered her to the Rural Nursing Theory of Winters and Lee (2018) and their remarkable understanding of concepts unique to rural dwellers, such as insider/outsider, the meaning of work, and so forth.
  • A doctoral student examining physical activity in couples – absolutely, I told her, see Pender’s (2011) health promotion model as this will help organize the co-variates.
  • Teaching advanced theory with enrollment from other healthcare professions, including pharmacy. I boasted about nursing’s rich theoretical foundations and how nursing can inform other disciplines in myriad ways. I applaud the student when she finds a singular concept analysis within her discipline.

But then, I give pause. With recent discussions surrounding racial and ethnic disparities, and decolonizing nursing theory, I question whether I am “selling theory” with a bit too much enthusiasm. I think of all the other Truths out there based on personal experience, which is a microcosm of the political. I think of the mix of what is current politically in juxtaposition with theory, and how the tight weave of beliefs leaves me looking for solid answers and coming up empty at times.

Without reflectivity and critical appraisals of what we believe – and try to sell – we are guilty of stagnation. We are guilty of ignorant exclusion. Now, with calls to examine our fundamental assumptions framed within privilege, do we “sell theory” with the same enthusiasm? I’m uncertain, but certain of caveats. We need to acknowledge the knowledge of other theoretical possibilities we haven’t addressed. We can accept “not knowing what we don’t know,” and with just as much enthusiasm explore our ignorance. We can honor those whose work has moved us forward, and move out of the way, or ask for a place alongside, of those who are informed in new ways or in ways that we didn’t listen to before. We must be committed to inclusion and diversity of thought, of the personal as political. As theorists, we are motivated to refine, refresh, extend, edit, delete, and discount. Only when we stop these activities, only when we think “we’re done,” will we be guilty of over-selling theory.

With a sigh, I look over again at the young man with his stochastic graphs and models. He’s been pushing buttons on his laptop, growing his models, as I have been reflecting on theory’s role in nursing. I kiss him, my son, on the cheek, and say with certainty, “We both have a lot to learn.”


Chinn, P. & Kramer, M. (2018). Knowledge development in nursing: Theory and process (10th ed.). Mosby, Inc.

Pender, N. J., Murdaugh, C. L., & Parsons, M. A. (2011). Health Promotion in Nursing Practice (6th Edition). Pearson.

Szanton, S. L., & Gill, J. M. (2010). Facilitating resilience using a society-to-cells framework: a theory of nursing essentials applied to research and practice. Advances in Nursing Science, 33(4), 329-343.

Winters, C. & Lee, H. J. (Eds.). (2018). Rural nursing: Concepts, theory and practice. (5th ed.). Springer Publishing Company.

The Definition of Health: Thoughts from Japan

Health is a central concept in most if not all versions of the metaparadigm of nursology (Fawcett, 2019). I have defined health as “human processes of living and dying” (Fawcett & DeSanto-Madeya, 2013, p. 6) and conceptualize health as inclusive of wellness, illness, and disease within that process. I deliberately separated wellness from illness and disease when I realized many years ago that the term, promotion of health, could mean that nursologists’ activities were directed toward promotion of illness and disease as well as wellness, rather than indicating that nursologists’ activities are directed toward promoting wellness and preventing illness and disease.

The St. Mary’s College School of Nursing Library. –A Repository of Nursology Knowledge

However, I recently realized that my conceptualization of health is Euro-centric and reflects my privilege as a white, Anglo-Saxon nursologist (Chinn, 2020). Accordingly, when I had the honor of speaking virtually with faculty and graduate program learners at St. Mary’s College Graduate School of Nursing in Kurume, Japan, in February 2021, I invited the learners to share their thoughts about health by responding to three questions. The questions and their responses constitute most of the remainder of this blog.

• The first question is: What is your definition of health?

• Inasmuch as the nursology curriculum at St. Mary’s College School of Nursing is based on the Roy Adaptation Model (RAM), I then asked this question: To what extent is your definition of health consistent with the Roy Adaptation Model definition of health, which is: “A state and process of being and becoming an integrated and whole human being” (Roy, 2009, p. 48).

• Finally, I asked: How does your definition of health affect what you think and do as a nursologist?


I define health as a feeling of harmony between body, mind, and living in society. Even if people have a disease or disability, they can be considered healthy if they feel that they are able to do what they want to do, while coping with their environment. My definition of health is similar to that of the RAM, in that human health in the RAM is not just a high or low level of health. Instead, it is about growth and development as we interact with our environment. Output behavior, when healthy, is positive adaptive behavior. According to the RAM, if energy is not spent on maladaptive coping, this energy can promote healing and enhance health, even in states of illness. I also believe that if people have a lifestyle disease, for example, and can controls the disease by going to the hospital and taking appropriate medication to stabilize the disease, and are able to live as members of society, then they are healthy. My definition of health has been informed by my work in public health nursing, as I learned to always value the concept of health promotion. Individually and collectively, I want to help people understand their health problems and support them to achieve independence and self-determination on their own, which will likely lead to illness prevention. Furthermore, I believe that it is essential to create an environment that supports health.


I define health as a state in which subjective well-being and objective health indicators are in marvelous harmony. Subjective well-being differs depending on the culture, customs, and environmental values of each individual; and even if they have a disease or handicap, I think that they are in health if they feel well-being within themselves. However, I ask if there is a possibility of being a detriment to themselves, such as leaving the illness to their own discretion, are they truly healthy? Therefore, I dare to consider that a state in which these conflicting things are in marvelous harmony can be called health. The RAM emphasis on an interaction between the person and the environment is consistent with my idea of subjective well-being. The RAM emphasizes that health behaviors based on individual values are adaptive and can never be measured by the values of others, which helps me to understand that whether people consider themselves healthy is a complete affirmation of their diverse values. However, the RAM contention that health behaviors cannot be measured is not consistent with the inclusion of objective aspects of health in my definition. In recent years, people’s lifestyles and values have changed, and subjective well-being, an aspect of my definition of health, has also diversified. The practice of providing sensitive care for the different needs of each individual requires a holistic understanding of that individual. A nursologist is the professional who is closest to the client. By paying attention to and engaging with the client, I think that we can become aware of the needs of that person and provide individualized nursology that protects human consideration and dignity. I also think that nursology, which requires being close to the client, is important in terms of developing trust and respect for their subjective well-being. Moreover, I think that nursology practice is caring for others, which is essential for curing and healing. Therefore, the attitude of facing each individual, the full use of professional knowledge and experience with dignity to maintain and improve well-being, and cooperation with clients while caring for them, are all affected by my definition of health and by our thinking and acting as a nursologist.


I define health as a state of understanding and accepting of one’s condition, and also a quest for health itself. Although the World Health Organization (1948) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” I regard health as the way of understanding the state of experiencing a disease or disability, accepting one’s response to the disease or disability, and trying to become satisfied and fulfilled despite the disease or disability. My definition also incorporates a holistic perspective that includes the meaning of healing, and I think that it is also a love of one’s existence, including existence with others. There are subjective and objective aspects to health, but factors such as ideals, goals, and prejudices toward health are the driving force behind the quest for health. I believe that human beings are creatures that constantly seek “health” and have the power to control their way of life. In other words, the act of pursuing “health” itself becomes human empowerment, and I think that it also affects one’s quality of life. My definition of health has been greatly influenced by the RAM definition of health. Being and becoming a whole and integrated human being can be interpreted as a quest for health, so that process is health itself. The RAM considers health from the perspective of human goals and the significance of existence, and lack of integration is said to denote inadequate health. The facilitation of the process of integration is seen as care for my idea of a “quest for health” and is consistent with all human care required of nursologists. My definition of health has a great influence on my thinking and behavior as a nursologist. I believe that supporting the acceptance of people with a disease or disability and considering together with them is caring for their “quest for health.” Quality of life changes significantly depending on how disease or disorder is perceived and understood. As a nursologist, I think that by being involved in the process of accepting illness and disability and supporting people’s ability to satisfy themselves, they can accept and love their existence. As a nursologist, I would like to continue to study and learn the potential “investigative power of health” of human beings and contribute to the development of the science of nursology in the future.


My definition of health has two aspects: it is the situation in which people think of their condition as being “good” despite any physical malady they might have, and it is also the process they are going through in changing or adapting to their condition to become “better” in terms of their own understanding of the word. My definition of health has been greatly influenced by the RAM, as I learned nursology through the RAM. My definition of health is, however, more abstract than that of the RAM, as my definition emphasizes the largely subjective nature of health. My definition of health has influenced by thoughts and actions. Thus, I understand that nursologists strive to establish a caring connection to patients by ascertaining what kind of state they think is good, their goals and abilities required to attain that state, how they perceive their current situation, and what their values are. Furthermore, as I work in rehabilitation nursology, I see many of the patients leave the hospital with remaining disabilities to go on with their lives. Therefore, we nursologists may be required to change our ideas about health so that we can work together with the patients while thinking about how to establish health in their lives, and encourage any necessary changes they may need to make.


I think that health is not a concept that opposes illness, but a process in which a person interacts with the environment as a human being and tries to become a person looking positively toward their hopes and wishes. Health in the RAM is an integrated overall condition or process. Nursologists say that by promoting adaptation, they contribute to human health, quality of life, and dignified death. I think that for people to be the people they are, nursologists have to understand the hopes and wishes of what the people want to be and do, as well as understand and support them physically, mentally, and socially. I believe it is necessary to understand the environment surrounding a person, think about the influences that affect their health, and consider how to manage these aspects to make people healthy. I think it is necessary to act as a nursologist to understand people’s hopes and wishes people and to help them attain these hopes and wishes.


I think of health as being familiar with one’s self, having the ability to deal with problems, and having the ability to make decisions. The notion of health in the RAM as a state of integration is consistent with my thoughts about health. Until I entered graduate school, I was convinced that “health” was not having any illnesses or disability. However, even if one has an illness or a disability, I have now come to think that true health is the ability to face oneself, accept what one has become, and move forward toward the future. While studying the RAM and bioethics, I have learned it is important to learn that “person” equals “life”, and that it is equally important to think about a person’s “purpose of life” and “meaning of life” while practicing nursology. Nursologists are practitioners of caring, so I have realized that it may be inadequate to not understand what health is. In the future, I would like to continue learning so I can augment my humanity and human power, learn more about the attitudes necessary for caring, and put them to practical use.


As I began to write this blog, I realized that I did not know the Japanese word for health; Google translate provided an answer: Kenkō, which is written in Japanese characters as 健康 (

I was remiss in not having invited the St. Mary’s College Graduate School of Nursing faculty and learners to share the word each uses for health. Therefore, I do not know whether their responses reflect a Euro-centric or Japanese meaning for the word.

When I sent a draft of this blog to Eric Fortin, of the St. Mary’s College School of Nursing faculty, he replied with his interpretation of the Japanese characters for health. I am, therefore, indebted to Mr. Fortin (personal communication, April 26, 2021), who wrote “健 means ‘humans build,’ and ‘康’ means “breathing space, . , , probably implying the lack of obstruction or disease. So, ‘humans building breathing space’ implies being healthy.”


Chinn, P. (2020, January 14). Decolonizing nursing.

Fawcett, J. (2019, March 21) Questions and Answers about our Discipline: Name and Metaparadigm. Paper presented at the Nursing Theory: A 50 Year Perspective Past and Future Conference. Sponsored by Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. .

Fawcett, J., & DeSanto-Madeya, S. (2013). Contemporary nursing knowledge: Analysis and evaluation of nursing models and theories (3rd ed.). F. A. Davis.

Roy, C. (2009). The Roy adaptation model (3rd ed.). Pearson.

World Health Organization. (1948). Preamble to the constitution. World Health Organization.

It’s Time We Raise Nursologists!

Report from the 2021 Virtual Nursing Theory Week

Christina Nyirati
Sharon Stout-Shaffer

At the time of the 2021 Virtual Nursing Theory Week, Christina Nyirati and Sharon Stour-Shaffer presented the baccalaureate curriculum they designed and now implement at Heritage University located on the Yakama Reservation in Washington State. This is the only session that was recorded during the conference; it represents the value of nursing knowledge in shaping the present and future of nursing as a discipline. The following is a brief description and a video of their presentation.

The first Heritage University BSN Program Outcome reads “The Graduate of the Heritage University BSN Program explains how nursing’s fundamental patterns of knowing –personal, aesthetic, ethical, empirical and emancipatory –contribute to understanding the complexity of nursing care in the treatment of human response”.

Carper’s (1978) Fundamental Patterns of Knowing in Nursing is the foundation of the BSN Program. Freshmen study discrete courses in each of Carper’s fundamental patterns: personal, aesthetic, ethical, and empirical knowing. The Personal Knowing course is founded on personal knowing as a precondition for nursing care. Students practice various methods of reflection to develop personal knowing in every moment of nursing care. The Aesthetics of Nursing course is grounded in assumptions from Nightingale’s theory of nursing arts and aesthetics as a fundamental pattern of knowing in nursing. An experiential course, based in the principles of performing arts, the focus is on the act of care; Students explore and apply dramatic arts foundational to holistic nursing care competencies. The Ethical Knowing course emphasizes the practice of ethical comportment in nursing care. The Empirical Knowing course students introduces students to fundamental theories, concepts, evidence, and competencies pertaining to generation of nursing knowledge.

Senior year features the community as the unit of nursing care, and is founded on Chinn and Kramer’s (2019) emancipatory knowing in nursing. The Policy, Power & Politics of Nursing course focuses on the professional nurse role in taking responsibility for shaping social policy. The two Community Oriented Nursing Inquiry and Practice and the Community Based Participatory Research courses center on principles of socially just reflective action to overcome health inequities.

Faculty developed rubrics to evaluate how students integrate the fundamental patterns of knowing nursing into clinical practice. Students complete reflective writing assignments during clinical practice each semester from sophomore through senior year.

About the contributors:

Christina Nyirati, RN, PhD

Christina Nyirati is Professor of Nursing at Heritage University on the Yakama Nation Reservation in Washington, where she serves as the founding Director of the BSN Program. Dr. Nyirati came to Heritage from Ohio University and The Ohio State University, where she directed the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Programs. She practiced more than 30 years as an FNP in primary care of vulnerable young families in Appalachian Ohio, and worked to reduce dire neonatal and maternal outcomes. Dr. Nyirati challenges FNP educators to consider nursing knowledge as the essential component of the FNP program as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) evolves and becomes requisite for entry into advanced practice. Now at Heritage Dr. Nyirati prepares nurses in an innovative undergraduate curriculum faithful to the epistemic foundations of nursing. Two cohorts have graduated from the Heritage BSN Program. They openly proclaim and use their powerful nursing knowledge to correct inequities in their communities.

Sharon Stout-Shaffer, PhD, RN

Sharon Stout-Shaffer, PhD, RN, Professor Emerita, Capital University, Columbus, Ohio; Adjunct Faculty, Heritage University, Toppenish, Washington; Nursing Education Specialist, S4Netquest, Columbus, Ohio. Sharon has over 30 years of experience in educational administration and teaching in both hospital and academic settings. Her career has focused on developing education based on a nursing model that includes concepts of holism and healing.

Her Ph.D. in Nursing from The Ohio State University focused on the psychophysiology of stress and relaxation-based interventions to promote autonomic self-regulation and immune function in people living with HIV. She has attained certification in Psychosynthesis, Guided Imagery, and more recently, the Social Resilience Model; she has presented numerous papers on integrating holism into curricula as well as caregiver wellbeing and resilience including Adelaide, Australia, 2011; Reykjavik, Iceland, 2015; American Holistic Nurses Association Phoenix, 2016 & Niagara Falls, 2018.

During her tenure as Director, Post-Graduate Programs at Capital University, Sharon taught the graduate theory course and co-developed a theoretically grounded holistic healing course as the foundation for graduate study; the graduate program has been endorsed by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Center. Since her retirement, she has co-developed and implemented numerous educational interventions designed to develop the Therapeutic Capacity of working nurses and nursing students. This work includes concepts of centering, compassion, managing suffering, the psychophysiology of resilience and essential contemplative practices to develop stress resilience, deal with moral distress and promote long-term wellness. She is currently teaching courses in Personal Knowing and Nursing Ethics for undergraduate nursing students at Heritage University. Her most recent publication is dedicated to holistic self-care and self-development. (Shields, D. & Stout-Shaffer, S. 2020). Self-Development: The foundation of holistic self-care. In Helming, M., Shields, D., Avino, K., & Rosa, W. Holistic nursing: A handbook for Practice (8th). Jones and Bartlett Learning, Burlington MA.)

Guest Post: Decolonizing the Language of Nursology

Contributor: Daniel Suárez-Baquero
Scroll down for Spanish language version of this post


Nursing has been characterized by a colonial perspective in which the advancements and developments made in English are over those made in other languages. We forget as Dr. Ricardo Ayala states in his book Towards a Sociology of Nursing (2019): “Nursing is a social discipline.” Society frames the context of Nursing understanding and development. Moreover, Rodrigo, Cais, and Monforte-Royo (2017), in their article titled “The influence of Anglo-American theoretical models on the evolution of the nursing discipline in Spain,” highlight that those social implications of Nursing in Spain make almost impossible to transfer the conceptual development of nursing theories created and thought in English.

Original art by Daniel Daniel Suárez-Baquero and Nelson Martinez

As a Ph.D. candidate, I lived the experience of being judged as “being wrong” when I provide my assumptions about nursing, rather than receiving an open door for discussion. In Spanish, the discipline’s name is Enfermería from the Latin infirmus, with the Spanish suffix -eria (i.e., as a place in which ill people are treated). In contrast, the English word nursing comes from late Latin nutritia (referring to nourishing and nurture). The use of these words is also different by essence because Enfermería has uses only as a noun, and Nursing can be used as a noun, verb, and adjective.

The linguistic barriers between Romances and Anglo-Saxon languages make us see two different perspectives and words of Nursing. The major difference presented in both languages is mainly because of the absence of a verb to express the act of Nursing in Spanish (“Enfermeriar” [sloppy and nonexistent translation]), then nurse’s action was labeled as Cuidado. Cuidado is a word that encompasses the amalgamation of the act of nursing and the act of caring. The restriction of the world Enfermería as a noun makes Care/Caring (Cuidado) the essence of Nursing in Spanish. Therefore, authors such as Brito Brito, in his paper of 2016 “Cuidadología: Pensamientos sobre el nombre de nuestra disciplina,” proposes the name of the discipline as CUIDADOLOGÍA considering that the essence and the action of Enfemrería are Cuidado. Hence, the most logical way to name our discipline is Cuidadología (Careology) and not Nursology who limits it use only to English, recognizing that if it is true that not all nurses provide Caring, all the nurses care for others. Brito Brito (2016) states that Cuidadología means the science of Cuidado (Caring) and the science of knowledge.

It is important to highlight that “Spanish [nurses] did not differentiate between the concepts Care, Care for, and Caring, using these words with different nuances indistinctively and translating all equally into one‐word in Spanish, Cuidado” (Suárez-Baquero & Champion, 2020).

I provide an initial insight into this matter in the paper “Expanding the conceptualisation of the Art of Caring.” Further, I proposed the word NURSOLOGÍA in Spanish as a bridge between English and Spanish language in an in-press paper on ANS titled “Critical analysis of the nursing metaparadigm in Spanish-speaking countries: Is the nursing metaparadigm universal?” recognizing that the Latin root Nutritia represents also caring. “We propose to rather use the term Nursología as the Spanish equivalent for Nursology, as this term embraces the notion of nursing as the science of caring comprehensively.” (Suárez-Baquero & Walker). This proposal aims to build bridges between perspectives of Nursing instead of imposing and colonize minoritized nurses in the rest of the world as it used to happen in Nursing discipline.

I hope these thoughts provide a little more clarity about our discipline’s name and provide awareness about the importance of the linguistic congruency historically bypassed by English-speaking nurses. Moreover, I agree that this change can’t be made without the contributions of nurses globally in a multilingual framework.

Note: Portions of this post belong to the forthcoming article: Suárez-Baquero, D. F. M. & Walker, L. O. (in press for Volume 44:2). Critical analysis of the nursing metaparadigm in spanish-speaking countries: Is the nursing metaparadigm universal?. Advances in Nursing Science


La Enfermería ha sido caracterizada por una perspectiva colonial, en la que los adelantos y desarrollos hechos en inglés están por encima de aquellos hechos en otros idiomas. Nos olvidamos, como el Dr. Ricardo Ayala indica en su libro Towards a Sociology of Nursing (Hacia una sociología de la Enfermería) (2019) de que “La enfermería es una disciplina social”. Las sociedades enmarcan el entendimiento y desarrollo de la enfermería. Además, Rodrigo, Cais, and Monforte-Royo (2017), en su artículo titulado The influence of Anglo-American theoretical models on the evolution of the nursing discipline in Spain (La influencia de los modelos teóricos angloamericanos en la evolución de la disciplina enfermera en España) resaltan que las implicaciones sociales de la Enfermería en España hacen casi imposible transferir los desarrollos conceptuales de las teorías de Enfermería creadas y pensadas en inglés.

Original art by Daniel Daniel Suárez-Baquero and Nelson Martinez

Como candidato doctoral, he vivido la experiencia de ser juzgado como “errado” cuando comparto mis supuestos sobre la Enfermería en lugar de recibir una puerta abierta a la discusión. En español, el nombre de la disciplina es Enfermería, que proviene del latín infirmus, con el sufijo español -ería (es decir, un lugar en el que las personas enfermas son tratadas). En contraste, la palabra en inglés, Nursing, viene del latín tardío nutritia (referente a la alimentación y nutrición. Nurturing/Nurture se refiere al nutrir de forma física, moral, mental, espiritual, en todas las dimensiones del ser). El uso de estas palabras también es distinto en esencia porque Enfermería tiene usos únicamente como sustantivo,ñ mientras que Nursing puede ser usado como sustantivo, verbo y adjetivo.

Las barreras lingüísticas entre las lenguas romances y anglosajonas nos hacen ver dos perspectivas y mundos de Enfermería distintos. La mayor diferencia entre los dos idiomas es la ausencia de un verbo que exprese la acción de la Enfermería en español [“Enfermeriar” (traducción chapucera e inexistente)]; por esto, las acciones enfermeras fueron etiquetadas como Cuidado. Cuidado es una palabra que engloba la amalgama del acto de enfermería y el acto de cuidar con amor o cariño. La limitación de la palabra Enfermería como sustantivo hace del Cuidado (Care/Caring) la esencia de la Enfermería en español. Por lo tanto, autores como Brito Brito, en su artículo de 2016 “Cuidadología: Pensamientos sobre el nombre de nuestra disciplina”, propone el nombre de la disciplina como CUIDADOLOGÍA, considerando que la esencia y la acción de la enfermería es el Cuidado. En consecuencia, la forma más lógica de nombrar nuestra disciplina es Cuidadología (Careology) y no Nursology, que limita su uso sólo al inglés, reconociendo que si bien no todas las enfermeras y enfermeros proveen cuidado amoroso/cariñoso (Caring), todas las enfermeras y enfermeros asisten a otros con o sin el componente del Cuidado (sino la mera intervención enfermera). Brito Brito (2016) establece que Cuidadología significa la ciencia del Cuidado (Care/Caring) y la ciencia del conocimiento.

Es importante resaltar que “Las enfermeras que hablan español no diferencian entre los conceptos Care, Care for, y Caring, usando estas tres palabras con diferentes matices y significados indistintamente y traduciéndolas todas en una sola palabra en español, Cuidado” (Suárez-Baquero & Champion, 2020).

Aporto una primera visión de este asunto en el artículo Expanding the conceptualisation of the Art of Caring (Expandiendo la conceptualización del arte del Cuidar). Además, propongo la palabra NURSOLOGÍA en español como un Puente entre los idiomas inglés y español en un artículo en producción en ANS titulado Critical analysis of the nursing metaparadigm in Spanish-speaking countries: Is the nursing metaparadigm universal? (Análisis crítico del metaparadigma de Enfermería en países hispanos: ¿Es el metaparadigma de enfermería universal?, reconociendo que la raíz latina Nutritia representa también Cuidar. “Nosotros proponemos en vez el uso del término Nursología como el equivalente en español para Nursology, dado que este término abarca ampliamente la noción de la enfermería como la ciencia del cuidado” (Suárez-Baquero & Walker). Esta propuesta busca construir puentes entre las perspectivas de la Enfermería en vez de imponer y colonizar enfermeras y enfermeros minorizados en el resto del mundo, como suele suceder en la disciplina enfermera.

Espero que estos pensamientos provean un poco más de claridad acerca del nombre de nuestra disciplina, así como conciencia sobre la importancia de la congruencia lingüística históricamente obviada por las enfermeras angloparlantes. Además, concuerdo que este cambio no puede hacerse sin las contribuciones de las enfermeras y enfermeros del mundo en un marco multilingüístico.



Ayala, R. A. (2020). Towards a Sociology of Nursing. In Towards a Sociology of Nursing. Springer Singapore.

Brito Brito, P. R. (2017). Cuidadología: Pensamientos sobre el nombre de nuestra disciplina. Ene, 11(2).
Rodrigo, O., Caïs, J., & Monforte-Royo, C. (2017). The influence of Anglo-American theoretical models on the evolution of the nursing discipline in Spain. Nursing Inquiry, 24(3), e12175.

Suárez‐Baquero, D. F. M., & Champion, J. D. (2020). Expanding the conceptualisation of the Art of Caring. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences.

About Daniel Suárez-Baquero

Mr. Suárez Baquero received his BSN and MSN in Maternal/Perinatal Nursing Care from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. He is currently completing a Nursing Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin. His research and practice concern women/maternal/perinatal health, risk reduction for urban/rural ethnic minority women, and nursing theory.

Connotations of Research Speak: The Meaning of Words Used in Research Reports

Do we allow or invite people to participate in research? Do we refer to people who volunteer to be in a study as subjects or respondents or informants or participants or people?

This blog is about the language we use when we present or publish our research. The impetus for this blog was a colleague’s recent declaration that people were “allowed” to share their experiences of a health related condition for a study. The blog is a follow up to a previous blog that addressed the implication of power when using words such as compliance and adherence and, perhaps, even concordance (Fawcett, 2020), as well as another previous blog focused on diverse meanings of power (Fawcett et al., 2020).

Upon hearing my colleague state that people were “allowed,” I immediately thought: What is meant by indicating that a researcher “allows” people who volunteer to be in a study so to provide answers to the researcher’s questions in an interview format or via a numeric survey? Does stating that the researcher “allows” the people who volunteer for the study to do whatever the researcher wants them to do mean that the researcher holds power over them? Is a “power over” relationship appropriate for what many nursologists claim as a core value and approach to people, that is, “relationship-centered care?” (See Wyer, Alves Silva, Post, & Quinlan, 2014). Does “allowing” people to share experiences for the purposes of research connote “paternalism, coercion, and acquiescence” (Hess, 1996, p. 19), Should we instead “invite” people to share their experiences or answer our survey questions or accept our experimental interventions?

Although most, if not all, nursologists who conduct research no longer refer to the people who volunteer to be in their studies as “subjects,” these people continue to be referred to as “respondents,” the term frequently used when people respond to a numeric survey, or they continue to be referred to as “informants,” when they answer open-ended interview questions. Perhaps most frequently, the people are referred to as a sample or population of “participants.” Until very recently, I was content with referring to people who volunteered for research projects as “participants.” However, I have begun to think that if we nursologists truly value and support relationship-centered care, we should personalize those who volunteer for our research projects. For example, many of the people who have volunteered for my Roy Adaptation Model-guided program of research (Clarke & Fawcett, 2014; Tulman & Fawcett, 2003).) are women during the childbearing phase of life. Should I refer to these people as women rather than participants?

I invite readers to offer their ideas for words that are most compatible with nursologists’ values about our relationships with people who volunteer for our research projects.


Clarke, P.N., & Fawcett, J. (2014). Life as a nurse researcher. Nursing Science Quarterly, 27, 37-41.

Fawcett, J. (2020, March 17). What is Reflected in a Label about Health? Non-Nursology and Nursology Perspectives. Blog.

Fawcett, J., Shitaki, Y., Tanaka, K., Hashimoto, Y., Fujimoto, R., & Higashi, S. (2020, September 1). Meanings of power. Blog.

Hess, J. D. (1996). The ethics of compliance: A dialectic. Advances in Nursing Science, 19(1), 18-27.

Tulman, L., & Fawcett, J. (2003). Women’s health during and after pregnancy: A theory-guided study of adaptation to change. Springer.

Wyer, P. C., Alves Silva, S., Post, S. G., & Quinlan, P. (2014). Relationship-centred care: antidote, guidepost or blind alley? The epistemology of 21st century health care. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 20(6), 881–889. https://doi-org/10.1111/jep.12224

Posthumxnism and the Pandemic

Co-contributors with Jessica Dillard Wright:*
Jane Hopkins Walsh
Brandon Blaine Brown

One of the things that’s coming to light is how the global spread of a microscopic virus is placing the ravages of racism and inequity under the microscope. But the fact is, we don’t all see the same thing! Racism has a way of actually DISTORTING our vision. Intertwined with many other forms of social domination, racism is mercurial, innovative, even viral.” (Benjamin, 2020

Celestial Octopus

Our Celestial Octopus, emblem of the Compost Collaborative, created by nurse-artist Christian Tedjasukmana

As the Compost Collaborative,** a posthumxn rhizome of feminist, queer, nursing joy and terror, we wish to acknowledge some of the deep, enduring, and trenchant lessons of our dystopian present. As friends and scholars, we are deeply connected by a shared passion for a radical posthumxn path for the future of nursing. We first wish to convey our deep love, respect, and solidarity for the nurses who are actively engaged in the dangerous daily work of caring for folks infected with COVID19. Second, we recognize our privilege and positionality as white colonizers with access to medical care, physical goods, and material resources, knowing that power and access are not shared by all, deeply contingent on the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, colonial positionality. Posthumxnism is a critique of and response to humanism and its anthropocentric fixation, one that seeks to scrutinize the humxn and nonhumxn consequences of capitalism (Bradiotti, 2019). In advancing a posthumxn critique for and of nursing in the time of COVID19, we see our work growing out of the emancipatory tradition, centering critical perspectives, feminist analyses, queer inquiry, justice-oriented praxis as we navigate terra incognita (Kagan et al., 2014; Grace & Willis, 2012).

Here we sit, isolated in distant states recognizing that the dystopian imagined future is suddenly a fervent, fevered reality and nursing along with its healthcare comrades are essentially located in the interstices. Our speculative theorizing about the posthumxn present-future of nursing is in continuity with the future-oriented, space-exploring vision of Martha Rogers (1992), though our cosmic view is tempered with the urgency, pragmatism, and the reality of excavating the past while navigating the crises of our present from pandemic to scarcity to racism to climate change to colonialism to extinctions and more. The urgency for a posthumxn path forward has crashed on the doorstep and posthumxnism is ringing the bell. The posthumxn convergence is calling, Braidotti’s (2019) mash-up vision of posthumxnism and the end of life as we know it. This turn is a critical decentering of humxn in the broad landscape of our ecological terrain that subverts anthropocentric humxnism and its white, ableist, colonial, Eurocentric, cisgender, patriarchal biases, bound up in the neoliberal, capitalist world-ecology, as Jason Moore would call it. 

Humxns are a part of – not rulers over – global political economy-cum-world-ecology, underscored currently by the trans-species complexity of COVID19. In advancing posthumxnism, we also wish to respect and amplify ontological views that are foundational within Indigenous ways of knowing. Long erased by settler-colonial nations and scholars, these ontologies fashion a world in which humans exist coequally with the nonhumxn and the nonliving (LaDuke, 2017).

For a speed course in postanthropocentrism and posthumxnism, consider this novel virus, born of a pangolin, a bird, a pig, a lizard, a bat, a monkey. The viral RNA origins are non-humxn, the virus itself nonliving. Witness the impact as the virus quietly infects and swiftly overpowers contemporary humxnity, bringing powerful global enterprises, international trade, healthcare systems, educational structures, and communities to their knees. Here, the boundaries blur between the humxn and the nonhumxn, the posthumxn subject no longer bios but zoe (Braidiotti, 2019). The pandemic also highlights the communitarian imperative of humxn and nonhumxn life on this rock we call home, as we struggle with social distance and mourn the loss of normalcy. Making kin, Haraway’s (2016) concept of reordering multispecies world relations seems especially relevant in the face of this current crisis, underscoring how inextricably intertwined lives are and continue to become. Humxns shelter in place, leaving nonhumxn creatures to reclaim their once and future territories, roads and highways eerily deserted and quiet, free from the imposition of humxn interlopers. Signs of the postanthropos.

As we think of our planetary crisis, we recognize a cosmic unity similar to that advanced by Martha Rogers in her conceptual framework, the “Science of Unitary Human Beings” (1992). But we also recognize a necessary critique of the concept of “unitary,” problematically failing to account for the historical and contemporary power differentials and legacies of oppression between groups of people in the US and around the globe.  Rogers’ (1992) concept of unitary human beings included an irreducible, indivisible union of people and their worlds (p. 28). The concept of “unity,” however, obscures differentials of power that exist between different communities and their world that enforce inequality. 

We see a posthumxn reading of Rogers’ unitary framework in Posthumxnist Rosi Braidotti’s (2019) insistence that “we-are-(all)-in-this-together but we-are-not-one-and-the-same” (p. 52) that accounts for critical perspectives on how power and oppression structure inequality, even as we endure shared experiences. This reflection on our subjective experience is ever more prescient and poignant as United States political decision-making prioritizes economics and return to normal over humxn life, disappointing but far from surprising given our capitalist imperative to extract! Extract! Extract! And extract some more. As scholar Ruha Benjamin points out as governmental powers push to return to normal, the prepandemic normal was not so great for everyone (2020). 

The uneven unfolding of our dystopian crises belies the jingoistic and unitary notion of “we, the people.” “We, the people” will not experience the pandemic in equitable ways, even while viral RNA presumes to be a great equalizer, making no provision for race, gender, creed, color, sexuality, national identity. In truth, COVID19 etches the inequalities between us deeper still. The virus has and will continue to infect both the powerful and the powerless, though with uneven speed and inequitable consequences. The rich and powerful with unlimited access to viral testing with rapid results, symptomatic or no, while most are turned away. As millions lose their jobs, and with it, health insurance, the cracks in the U.S. healthcare “system” extend and grow wider.

The accretional benefits of power, access, economic and educational accumulation, family reserves built and fortified across generations through a legacy of colonial, white, cisgender, able heteropatriarchy buffer the privileged, making social distance and sheltering in place a relative luxury. White-collar workers collect salaries as they work from home facilitated by the endless, spidery connections that link us via technology, further highlighting our interspecies technological cyborg nature (Haraway, 1990). Even with this kind of padded seclusion there is weirdness, alienation, and violence of its own. The imperative to continue to produce belies the severity of the crisis at hand, even while it is bedecked in the privilege of safety from illness conferred by sheltering in place.

These same principles, sheltering in place and social distance, further marginalized those individuals already on the margins. Hourly-wage earners, the billions of global workers like shopkeepers, caterers, restaurant workers, wait staff, ticket takers wonder how they will survive, subjugated by the laws of Cheap Nature, if they do not have enough money for food and rent (Moore, 2016). Or for medical bills. Or a ventilator. The mundane slow violence of life under capitalism is amplified, writ large under times of crisis, as speculative, nightmarish hypotheticals become breathtaking realities, a startling necropolitics of neoliberalism, the biopolitical power to determine who lives and who dies as a function of capitalism (Mbembe, 2019; Nixon, 2011). This doesn’t even begin to account for the racist violence and inequities of mass incarceration and detention, the impossibility of social distancing for individuals within institutions, and the callous disposability this implies for the individuals trapped by incarceration or detention and those charged with their care.

Posthumxnism asks us to consider what we are capable of becoming, together as humxn and nonhumxn for a more just, egalitarian, and equitable future. This is our charge as posthumxn nurses – to imagine AND THEN CREATE a present-future, one that makes space for the plurality of beings and ways of being in the world, building the bridge as we leap. In building this path, we can cultivate zoecentric knowledge that subverts biocentrism, gazing past the anthropocentric, humxnistic, and exclusionary philosophies that privilege extraction and profit over nature, nonhumxns, and dehumxnized humxns.

The present-future requires that we – as nurses and everyone else – embrace methodologies for cross-pollination between, among, alongside, and interconnected with actors from all crevices of our world ecologies: ecological, geological, political, environmental, animal, mineral, pop-culture, art, media and technology. All bets are off: nothing is too weird or too daring, a radical departure from current modes of nursing thought (Braidotti, 2019). The divisions between theory and philosophy come tumbling down as we seek critical reflection, explanations, understanding, connection, fusion. In this apocalyptic present-future, multispecies posthumxn nursing knowledge can be knit, sung, woven, danced, spun, rapped, embroidered, dyed, hummed, planted in a garden, or spray-painted on train cars, the interrelation of humxn and nonhumxn all a part of the process of posthumxn-becoming. And this proposition of posthumxn knowing is congruent with fine threads of nursing thought, as we consider Rogers (1992) ideas of color, humor, sound, Carper’s (1978) aesthetic way of knowing and the emancipatory ways of knowing advanced by Chinn and Kramer (2018). 

In this space-time of pandemic ennui, which coincidentally coincides with the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, what we must nurse is radical solidarity, a recognition that we are all in this together, even though we aren’t all the same (Haiven & Khasnabish, 2014). And the stakes are ominously high, should we fail to embrace this communitarianism. A future for healthcare, for sky, for nurses, for ALL people, for plants, for animals, for insects, for viruses, for bacteria, for trash, for compost, for kids, for terra, for seas, for space – any future at all – demands that we work together, composting the boundaries that separate us. This is not what we as nurses imagined for “our year,” but it is poetic-ironic that this is what we face. Together. 

“Despair is not a project, affirmation is.” (Bradiotti, 2019, p. 3).

**We call ourselves Compost Collaborative, a nod to feminist multispecies ecologist Donna Haraway, who captivated our collective imagination and informs our approaches to decaying boundaries of all kinds in nursing and in life. We are scholastically and tentacularly connected in our collaborative work as nurse-compost-scholars. This post was written by Jessica Dillard-Wright, Jane Hopkins Walsh, and Brandon Blaine Brown. Our collaborative is fungible, however, and our ideas are collective, part of a social process influenced by people, animals, environments, and ideas far and wide.


Benjamin, R. (2020, April 15). Black skin, white masks: Racism, vulnerability and Refuting black pathology. Retrieved from

Braidiotti, R. (2019). Posthuman Knowledge. Polity Press.

Carper, B. A. (1978). Fundamental Patterns of Knowing in Nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 1(1), 13–24.

Chinn, P., & Kramer, M. (2018). Knowledge Development in Nursing: Theory and Process (10th ed.). Elsevier.

Grace, P. J., & Willis, D. G. (2012). Nursing responsibilities and social justice: An analysis in support of disciplinary goals. Nursing Outlook, 60(4), 198-207.

Haiven, M., & Khasnabish, A. (2014). The Radical Imagination. Fernwood Publishing.

Haraway, D. (1990). A manifesto for cyborgs: Science, technology, and socialist feminism in the 1980s. In L. Nicholson (Ed.), Feminism/postmodernism (pp. 190–233). Routledge.

Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.

Kagan, P., Smith, M., & Chinn, P. (2014). Introduction. In P. Kagan, M. Smith, & P. Chinn (Eds.), Philosophy and Practices of Emancipatory Nursing: Social Justice as Praxis (pp. 1–20). Routledge.

LaDuke, W. (2017). All our relations: Native struggles for land and life. Haymarket Books.

Mbembe, A. (2019). Necropolitics (M. Tauch, Trans.). Duke University Press.

Moore, J. (2016). The Rise of Cheap Nature. In Anthropocene or capitalocene: Nature, history, and the crisis of capitalism (pp. 78–115). Kairos Books.

Nixon, R. (2011). Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge MA:     Harvard University.

Rogers, M. E. (1992). Nursing science and the space age. Nursing Science Quarterly, 5(1), 27-34.

*About the contributors

Jess Dillard-Wright, MA, MSN, CNM, RN

A regular blogger for, Jess is a nurse-midwife and a PhD candidate at Augusta University. Her dissertation is an intellectual history of nursing and feminism, a history of the present untangling the faults and fissures that characterize the interrelationship between feminism and the profession, focusing specifically on Cassandra Radical Feminist Nurses Network. When she is not thinking about nursing, you’ll find Jess hanging out with her three kids and partner. Together, they like to go to the beach, play silly game(may we humbly suggest Throw Throw Burrito?), read books, and *try* to bake amazing things.

Brandon Brown MSN, RN-BC, CNL,

Brandon is a faculty member and Doctor of Education student at the University of Vermont and is one of the founding members of the Nursing Theory Collective. His research interests center upon the philosophical analysis of nursing theory, practice, and pedagogy through a critical posthuman and post-anthropocentric lens. When Brandon is not doing scholarly work, you can find him spending time with his family hiking, canoeing, and camping.

Jane Hopkins Walsh

Jane is a theory loving, Spanish speaking pediatric nurse practitioner at Boston Children’s Hospital. A Nursing PhD Candidate at Boston College, Jane is an immigrant rights activist who is co-enrolled in a certificate program at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at the Lynch School of Education. Her main areas of interest are global health, im/migrant populations, and community based service delivery models to deliver nursing care for underserved children, emerging adults and families. She was awarded two global grants through Boston Children’s Hospital to coordinate services for children with complex care needs in remote areas of Honduras, and to explore the elevated incidence of chronic kidney disease in Central America with a transnational team. Links to her favorite NGO and volunteer immigrant rights groups can be found at the end of her blog posts on




Nursology’s Philosophical and Practical Knowledge: Unified and Interdependent

Guest Contributor: Martha Raile Alligood, RN, PhD, ANEF

A few months ago, Martha Alligood sent me (Jacquelyn Fawcett) this intriguing article: Rovelli, C. (2018). Physics needs philosophy, philosophy needs physics, Foundations of Physics, 48, 481-491. We decided to write a paper, which has evolved into this blog, about the relationship between philosophy and science in nursology. The specific purpose of this blog is to underscore the importance of the relationship between practical knowing and foundational (philosophical) knowing for advancement of nursology.

Alligood writes:

Rovelli (2018) wrote about the interrelationship of philosophy and science (physics). His discussion of practical and foundational knowing led me to think about nursology and the contemporary disciplinary shift to a practical focus from one that was dominated by general foundational philosophical questions. For example, nursological literature has evolved from a strong foundational philosophical knowledge development focus on nursology’s discipline-specific concepts, models, and theories to an equally strong practical focus on quality of practice and nursing education expansion in relation to practice, specifically, the development of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree programs.

Time has shown the value of such shifts in focus for a discipline. Advancement of a discipline calls for recognition and valuing of the complementary relationship between practical knowing and foundational knowing, as both are essential to the development of a professional discipline, such as nursology.

Practical knowledge is–or should be–based on the results of scientific research. However, if science is essential to move the discipline ahead, then philosophy ensures that we move in the right direction. But, “a broader understanding of the interdependence of practical and philosophical matters in professional nursing is needed” (Bruce, Rietze, & Lim, 2014, p. 65). Drawing from Einstein’s discussions of the influence of philosophies and philosophers on his work, Rovelli (2018) noted, “Scientists do not do anything unless they first get permission from philosophy” (p. 484).

Rovelli’s (2018) claim of an interdependent relationship between physics and philosophy for his discipline also is relevant for nursology. That is, contemporary growth and development of nursology requires an explicit interdependent relationship between foundational knowing and practical knowing. Indeed, the re-emergence of nursology as the name for our discipline after its initial introduction in the 1970s (Fawcett, 2018) is evidence of a contemporary need for terminology at a level of abstraction to incorporate all of the discipline’s knowing–both philosophically foundational and scientifically practical.

Within nursing history there are examples of practical knowing leading to foundational knowing, such as research about the impact of patient positioning that has led to foundational knowledge, but it seems that foundational knowing has the capacity to affect practical knowing in a more powerful manner. An excellent example is the clarification of the disciplinary boundaries of nursological knowledge pertaining to human beings, environment, health, and nursing goals and processes (Fawcett, 1984; Fawcett & DeSanto-Madeya, 2013). This metaparadigmatic clarification led to expansion of nursological knowledge, practice, research, education, administration, and perhaps most importantly, a clearer understanding of the theoretical knowledge that existed at that time.  Explaining the relationship of the various models or theoretical works provided clarity and understanding to move nursological knowledge development to a new level.

Ironically, recognizing the structure within which the various conceptual and theoretical frameworks fit may be seen as both practical and philosophical. Some of the very early National League for Nursing (NLN) faculty-curriculum development work that contributed to that understanding was very practical (O’Leary, 1975; Torres & Yura, 1975). Knowledge and understanding leads to future knowledge and understanding. Thus, foundational knowing and practical knowing collectively is nursological knowing that builds on all previous knowing. That is, there is no dichotomy between philosophical and practical knowing; instead, their complementary unified interrelationship may feature one or the other at periods of growth and change in nursology. Clearly, we want to ”counter those who would discard the discipline’s theoretical traditions as irrelevant or counterproductive, we need to [position] this new generation of critical scholarship to champion the intellectually exciting and complex philosophical challenge within which nursing has been engaged throughout its ideational history” (Thorne, 2014, p. 86).

Fawcett writes:

We know from Kuhn’s (1971) classic treatise on scientific revolutions that disciplinary perspectives change over time, typically as the result of scientists’ inability to continue to find support for a previous version of the disciplinary perspective. Sometimes, the revolution is in methodological shifts and sometimes it is in philosophical paradigm shifts. An example of a methodological shift is our contemporary acceptance of mixed methods research instead of the assertion—lasting into the early 2000s–that qualitative and quantitative methods are philosophically separate and, therefore, cannot ever be combined. An example of a philosophical paradigm shift is the growing recognition and acceptance of conceptual models and theories that reflect the simultaneity world view instead of those conceptual models and theories that reflect the totality world view (Parse, 1987).

The growing interest in nursology as the name for our discipline may be the beginning of major methodological and paradigm shifts from the contemporary emphasis on practical knowledge to a fuller understanding of the vital interrelationship of foundational and practical knowledge. These shifts are evident in that acceptance of nursology as the proper name for our discipline indicate that the foundational knowledge of our discipline guides the way we view our science and our practice—always within the context of an explicit nursological conceptual model and/or theory—rather than leaving the knowledge aspect of our science and our practice to the claim of being “atheoretical” (Fawcett, 2019). As Popper (1965) pointed out, everyone has a “horizon of expectations” (p. 47), such as a conceptual model or theory that guides research and practice, and as McCrae’s (2012) noted, “the legitimacy of any profession is built on its ability to generate and apply theory” (p. 222).

Finally, as Donaldson and Crowley (1978) so wisely told us,

A key point . . . is that the discipline should be governing clinical practice rather than being defined by it. Of necessity, clinical practice focuses on the individual in the here and now who has a problem requiring relevant and appropriate action. The discipline, in contrast, embodies a knowledge base relevant to all realms of professional practice and which links the past, present and future. Its scope goes far beyond that required for current clinical practice. If the discipline were so narrowly defined, professional nursing could be limited to functioning in the realm of disaster relief rather than serving as a force in the promotion of world health. (p. 118)


Bruce, A., Rietze, L., & Lim, A. (2014). Understanding philosophy in a nurse’s world: What, where, and why? Nursing and Health, 2(3), 65-71.

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

Fawcett, J. (1984). The metaparadigm of nursing: Present status and future refinements. Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 16, 84 87.

Fawcett, J. (2018, September 24). Our name: Why nursology? Why .net? Retrieved from

Fawcett, J. (2019, January 22). The impossibility of thinking “atheoretically.” Retrieved from

Fawcett, J., & DeSanto-Madeya, S. (2013). Contemporary nursing knowledge: Analysis and evaluation of nursing models and theories (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis.

Kuhn, T. (1971). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

McCrae, N. (2012). Whither nursing models? The value of nursing theory in the context of evidence-based practice and multidisciplinary healthcare. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 68, 222–229. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2011.05821.x

O’Leary, H. J. (1975). Changes in community nursing service that affect baccalaureate nursing programs. In Faculty-curriculum development, Part V. The changing role of the professional nurse: Implications for nursing education. New York, NY: National League for Nursing, Pub. No. 15-1574.

Parse, R. R. (1987). Nursing science: Major paradigms, theories, and critiques. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders.

Popper, K. R. (1965). Conjectures and refutations: The growth of scientific knowledge. New York, NY: Harper and Row.

Rovelli, C. (2018). Physics needs philosophy, philosophy needs physics, Foundations of Physics, 48, 481-491.

Thorne, S. (2014). Nursing as social justice: A case for emancipatory disciplinary theorizing. In P. N, Kagan, M. C. Smith, & P. L. Chinn (Eds.), Philosophies and practices of emancipatory nursing (pp.79-90). New York, NY: Routledge.

Torres, G., & Yura, H. (1975). The conceptual framework as part of the curriculum process. In Faculty-curriculum development Part III: Conceptual framework-Its meaning and function. New York, NY: National League for Nursing, Pub. No. 15-1558.