Nursing and Racism: Are We Part of the Problem, Part of the Solution, or Perhaps Both?

One of the first “lessons” in my now-long-ago nursing education was “the nursing process.” This was in the early 1960s, almost a decade before anyone spoke of nursing theory, but the University of Hawaii (my alma mater) had modeled the curriculum on that of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) which was designed around the ideas of Dorothy Johnson. These ideas would ultimately become known as Dorothy Johnson’s Behavioral Systems Model (See also the history of the UCLA School of Nursing, pgs 43-48).

Of course this same problem-solving process is widely used in many walks of life, and many see it as a mere pragmatic outline for making good decisions and forming appropriate action – a necessary process but several degrees removed from developing foundational knowledge of the discipline. In reflecting on the situation in which we find ourselves today I fear that as a discipline we have not adequately faced the realities before us as a discipline and as a society – both as a problem, and as a health experience. As I wrote in my January 20th post titled “Decolonizing Nursing”

Despite the fact that race and racism so repeatedly rise to the surface with a clear intent to address this issue, there is typically little or no substantive discussion that begins to reach deep down into explanations or understanding of what is really going on (see https://nursology.net/2020/01/14/decolonizing-nursing/)

I know that I am not alone in recognizing this challenge, but I continue to wonder — when and how will this begin to change? This is not merely a “political” matter — it is a matter of life and death, of health and sickness. It is a pandemic of proportions far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has been infecting our lives for decades. In recent weeks we have witnessed the public killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, of Ahmaud Arbery shot down while jogging in February, and Breonna Tayler, an EMT with plans of becoming a nurse, killed by police in her own home in March. Then just a few days before this post published, the killing in Atlanta of 27-year-old Rayshard Brookes, shot in the back several times by police after indicating that he was able and willing to walk home to his sister’s house.

These tragic murders in plain sight, coupled with widespread recognition of the over-proportioned number of Black and Brown people suffering from COVID-19 – give us a glimmer of opportunity to finally act. The calls for change are so pervasive and so sustained, that those of us ready and willing to make change have a real opportunity to do so. And so I return to my earliest nursing education and the foundational ideas that have been baked into my very fabric – the processes of active listening and observation that are vital to assessing and “diagnosing” a problem(1).

One of the notable signs that appears in all of the protests says “I see you, I hear you.” For me, this is a key to meeting the challenge before us. It starts with our interactions among our own colleagues. Throughout my nursing career I have seen many Black nurse colleagues come and go, and every single one of the nursing faculty I have served with have repeatedly decried how “difficult” it is to recruit and retain Black nurse faculty. Yet all too rarely have I witnessed concerted, deliberate efforts by the predominantly White(2) faculty to stop, step away from our privilege, seek the authentic stories of our Black colleagues, and actively hear (understand) their experience. Equally egregious is the fact that there are myriads of situations that, viewed through a lens of anti-racist awareness, could be instantly recognized as potentially harmful to a Black person, even dangerous. But over and over again we turn a blind eye, and fail to act. I have all too often been just as complicit in all of this as anyone else – we have all been caught up, and participate in a systemic web of injustice. And I suspect that this pattern is not unique to academics – that it runs deep in every setting where nursing is practiced.

Further, there is the all-too often deflection of the problem by the insistence that the “problem” is not unique to Black people – that all lives matter. Of course all lives matter and Black people are not the only ones who suffer injustice and discrimination. But this sentiment turns the lens away from the specific voices, experiences, and challenges faced Black people. We can listen to all people – but until we listen to, and sincerely seek to understand, Black people and recognize the experiences of trauma and harm that Black people uniquely suffer, and how we participate, we will not be able to truly understand the problem.

It is undeniable that the prejudice and hate toward Black Americans, and people of African descent in many other countries is profound and amplified by the historical trauma of slavery and in the United States, the fall-out of the civil war fought to end slavery in the United States. I hear many White nurses in my circle expressing true outrage about this situation and we are all sincere in our desire to see it change, yet the problem persists. Until we White nurses face the reality of our privilege and the injustices that flow from this, until we learn ways to step away from our privilege and engage in serious anti-racism work, until we create spaces in which we can authentically engage with our Black colleagues to understand the problem, the injustices in our own house will remain.

We can all shift in the direction of being part of the solution. There are signals that point us in the direction of actions we can all take – particularly those of us who are White – to seize this moment, start to address the scourge of racism in our own house, and make real change. The circumstance of the COVID-19 shift to virtual reality offers ample opportunities for all of us to engage in antiracism work! Here are a few examples that I can personally recommend – if you start searching, you will find many many others!

  • Nurse Caroline Ortiz organized a “platica” (Spanish for discussion) held on March 9th over Zoom. Caroline recorded the session, which you can access here: https://vimeo.com/397047962. You can organize similar discussions – we are all now expert Zoom organizers!
  • African-American activist Nanette Massey holds a weekly discussion with White people from all walks of life to discuss the ideas in Robin DiAngelo’s book “White Fragility: Why It Is So Hard for White People to Talk About Race.” I have participated in many of these informative, interesting and affirming Sunday discussions. Learn more here.
  • The “Everyday Feminism” website has pages and pages of content on ethnicity and racism – https://everydayfeminism.com/tag/race-ethnicity/. Just browsing titles is a rich experience! Their 2014 post of 10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up to Fight Everyday Racism is precisely relevant today!
  • Invest 1.5 hours into Everyday Feminism’s founder, Sandra Kim’s excellent session on “Why Healing from Internalized Whiteness is a Missing Link in White People’s Anti-Racism Work.” White nurses can benefit especially, but knowing that White people are facing this challenge, and how this can happen, can be helpful for everyone.
  • Practice generosity of spirit toward your nursing colleagues – each of us are being challenged in this moment to examine our own attitudes, actions and words. Many of us are just starting on this journey. This demands kindness and understanding toward one another as we work together, often in uncomfortable situations, to make meaningful change. Let us call forth the best we can be, and support one another with compassion and understanding when we mis-step.
  • Consider how application of many tenets of our own nursing theories can be activated in the quest to address racism. Consider Peplau’s approach to meaningful interpersonal relationships, the very important insights from Margaret Newman “Health as Expanded Consciousness,” and any one of several theories of caring such as Watson’s Theory of Human Caring, or Boykin and Schoenhofer’s Theory of Nursing as Caring, While these and other nursing theories were not created specifically to address racism and social injustice, we certainly can draw on their wisdom to bring nursing perspectives to the center in our anti-racism work.
  • Follow the opportunities provided by the Nursology Theory Collective to join discussions focused on creating equity in nursing
  • Find, read and cite nursing literature authored by nurses of color. Learn the names of these authors, and seek out their work. If you teach, make sure you include this literature in your syllabi(3).
  • Explore the work of scholars in other disciplines who are also committed to anti-racism work. The “Scholarly Kitchen” blog posts regularly on matters of racism and discrimination – see their June 15, 2020 post titled Educating Ourselves: Ten Quotes from Researchers Exploring Issues Around Race
  • Make your own video, as a nurse, speaking to these issues and how your values, ideas, nursing perspectives inform your actions to fight racism! Post it on YouTube or Vimeo .. and then share it with us – we can consider posting on Nursology.net or another nursing website. See this wonderful video (below) by de-cluttering expert Mel Robertson for inspiration!
Notes
  1. Ultimately the concept of active listening formed a basis for the essential processes of “critical reflection” and “conflict transformation” in my heuristic theory of Peace and Power.
  2. See this excellent article from the Center for the Study of Social Policy on the capitalization of the terms “Black” and “White,” which I consulted in refining this post: Nguyễn, A. T., & Pendleton, M. (2020, March 23). Recognizing Race in Language: Why We Capitalize “Black” and “White” | Center for the Study of Social Policy. Center for the Study of Social Policy. https://cssp.org/2020/03/recognizing-race-in-language-why-we-capitalize-black-and-white/
  3. See Kagan, P. N., Smith, M. C., & Chinn, P. L. (Eds.). (2014). Philosophies and Practices of Emancipatory Nursing: Social Justice as Praxis. Routledge. This collection includes many of the leading authors, including many nurse scholars of color, whose work focuses on social justice.

Moving from training to educating

More and more discussion is happening about the words we use in nursing. There are many words we need to move away from or change, and it will likely not happen in my lifetime. We are, however, making progress, and that’s what truly matters. Nursing faculty who teach their students more effective, helpful, and empowering messages are making a difference. Articles that focus on (and use!) strengths-based, person-centered language are moving the needle, as they say.

In addition to compliance and adherence, which Jacqueline Fawcett wrote about recently, training is a word that is prevalent in nursing. It’s time to change that. I often say, “we train animals; we educate people.”

Right now, nursing’s world is being rocked by COVID-19. We’re hearing many stories about PPE, which fit in with the training vs. educating question. Nurses are trained in the use of PPE, likely from their very first day. They are told how to put them on, take them off, perform tasks while wearing PPE, and so on. While they may get a little background on stopping the spread of infection through using these precautions, I’m guessing it really is training. When it comes to caring for patients who are sick and isolated; however, nurses call on their education. They use all five patterns of knowing (empiric, aesthetic, ethical, personal, and emancipatory) (Carper, 1978; Chinn & Kramer, 2018) to provide the best and most comprehensive care possible despite the horrific conditions surrounding them. Nurses are comforting those who are dying alone, and administering medications and ventilation to those who are struggling to breathe. Those skills are not the result of training. They come from being taught, supported, and guided, both in the classroom and in the clinical setting.

My work is in diabetes care and education. Training is a word that is prevalent in the diabetes arena. In fact, while diabetes professionals prefer and typically say, diabetes self-management education, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) insists on calling it diabetes self-management training. I’ve noticed that as a professional group, we seem to have given up on trying to change that.

The reason it matters in diabetes is that we are working with human beings. Training means basically telling someone to do something a certain way. Like I mentioned earlier, we train animals. Animals don’t understand the rationale behind performing a trick or coming when they are called. Teaching means to explain, support, and educate. It is much broader than training, and it leads to autonomy, understanding, and engagement, rather than compliance or nonadherence. Humans not only have the capacity to understand, they deserve to know the why, what, and how.

The reason it matters in nursing, is that it’s the subtle difference between a profession and a trade. Nurse scholars have been asking whether or not nursing is an applied science, a basic science (Barrett, 2017) or a science at all (Whall, 1993). We’ve been asking what sets us apart from other health professionals. We’ve wondered why other professions don’t use or reference our knowledge base.

Peggy Chinn, in her keynote address at last year’s Nursing Theory: A 50 Year Perspective, Past and Future conference, stated that it’s time to examine our own assumptions and actions (Chinn, 2019). When we refer to being trained as a nurse, or having been trained at a particular school, what are the underlying assumptions? Do we really see nursing as a trade, with trained workers? Or do we see ourselves as professionals who are educated and have a distinct body of knowledge that prepares us to work autonomously?

If we ever hope to change the messages in nursing and health, we have to start with ourselves. We have an opportunity to lead by example, and state proudly that we are educated, informed, and engaged in a valuable profession. We teach future nurses to also engage in the discipline, and we teach patients to engage in their health and well-being – at whatever level that is possible.

Transitioning from training to educating is consistent with caring (Chinn & Falk-Rafael, 2018; Newman, Sime, & Corcoran-Perry, 1991; Watson, 1997), humanism (Paterson & Zderad, 1976), empowerment (Funnell, 1991) and many other nursing concepts. Please join me in removing the word and the mentality of training from our messaging in nursing. Let’s educate instead.

 

References

Barrett, E.A.M. (2017). Again, what is nursing science? Nursing Science Quarterly, 30(2), 129-133.

Carper, B.A. (1978). Fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 1(1), 13-24.

Chinn, P.L. (2019, March). Keynote Address: The Discipline of Nursing: Moving Forward Boldly. Presented at “Nursing Theory: A 50 Year Perspective, Past and Future,” Case Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. Retrieved from https://nursology.net/2019-03-21-case-keynote/

Chinn, P.L. & Falk-Rafael, A. (2018). Embracing the focus of the discipline of nursing: Critical Caring Pedagogy. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 50(6), 687-694.

Chinn, P.L. & Kramer, M.K. (2018). Knowledge development in nursing: Theory and process. Elsevier.

Funnell M.M. , Anderson, R.M. , Arnold, M.S. , Barr, P.A., Donnelly, M., Johnson, P.D., Taylor-Moon, D., & White, N.H. (1991). Empowerment: An idea whose time has come in diabetes education. The Diabetes Educator, 17, 37-41.

Newman, M.A., Sime, A.M., & Corcoran-Perry, S.A. (1991). The focus of the discipline of nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 14(1), 1-6.

Paterson, J. G., & Zderad, L. T. (1976). Humanistic nursing. Wiley.

Watson, J. (1997). The theory of human caring: Retrospective and prospective. Nursing Science Quarterly, 10(1), 49-52.

Whall, A.L. (1993). Let’s get rid of all nursing theory. Nursing Science Quarterly, 6(4), 164-165.

Transitions in Leadership Positions: Is There a Best Time?

As we know, leaders transition to and from their positions within educational and clinical institutions. Meleis’ transitions theory, which focuses on “the human experiences, the responses, [and] the consequences of transitions on the well-being of people” (Meleis, as cited in Fawcett, 2017, p. 347) tells us that transitions may be anticipated, experienced in the here and now, or have been completed. Transitions may be development, situational, organizational, cultural, or well-illness; each type may occur singularly or with one or more others. (See https://nursology.net/nurse-theorists-and-their-work/transitions-framework-transitions-theory/)

Transitioning to or from a leadership position is a situational transition, which could be combined with a cultural transition as the nursologist moves to or from a new academic or clinical institution or even another country. The situational transition could be combined with a developmental transition as the nursologist enters another lifespan developmental phase. Furthermore, the situational transition could be combined with an organizational transition as an academic institution undergoes a major shift in priorities or a clinical agency merges with another clinical agency.

Alternatively, the transition of a nursologist to or from a leadership position could create an organizational transition as all affected people and structures adjust to the change. Finally, the situational transition, especially transitions from a leadership position, could be combined with a wellness-illness transition if the nursologist experiences a sudden acute illness or can no longer effectively manage a chronic disease.

One question about leadership transitions is: How does a nursologist transition to becoming an effective leader? Another question is: Is there an optimal time for a nursologist to transition to or from a leadership position?

© 2020 Jacqueline Fawcett

HOW DOES A NURSOLOGIST TRANSITION TO BECOMING AN EFFECTIVE LEADER?

Transitioning to becoming an effective leader obviously first requires a desire to be a leader, although at times, a nursologist may find self gently (or not so gently!) pushed into a leadership position by colleagues or senior administrators or by a vacuum left by someone who transitioned from the position suddenly.

Transitioning to becoming an effective leader also requires certain competencies. The American Organization of Nurse Executives (now the American Organization for Nursing Leadership) identified five competencies for effective leadership in practice and education (Waxman, Roussel, Herrin-Griffith, & D’Alfonso, 2017).  Although the competencies focus on those for executive level leadership positions, they are relevant for all levels of leadership. The five competencies are listed here. The specifics of the competencies are available in the Waxman et al. (2017) journal article or at https://www.aonl.org/resources/nurse-leader-competencies:

  1. Communication and relationship-building
  2. Knowledge of the healthcare or academic environment
  3. Leadership
  4. Professionalism
  5. Business skills and principles

The nursologist may already have acquired these competencies or has to acquire them by enrolling in a formal program and/or finding a mentor or leadership coach. Formal programs for nursologists are offered by Sigma Theta Tau International, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The programs are:

Sigma Theta Tau International
American Association of Colleges of Nursing
American Organization for Nursing Leadership (formerly, American Organization of Nurse Executives)
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Mentors and leadership coaches may be included within formal programs or the nursologist may have to approach recognized leaders and ask that they share their wisdom about leadership.

IS THERE AN OPTIMAL TIME FOR A NURSOLOGIST TO TRANSITION TO OR FROM A LEADERSHIP POSITION?

Aspiring or actual leaders may ask: Am I too young or too old to transition to or from a leadership position? Inasmuch as many institutions do not have mandatory age requirements for employees, wisdom is an important element of the transition decision. Although, as Larson (2019) pointed out, wisdom may come with older age, my experience indicates that younger persons also may be wise. Wisdom at any age requires nursologists to use “mindfulness, empathy, and self-reflection to learn from their mistakes, failures, and successes over the years” (Larson, 2019, pp. 789-790). Thus, those people who aspire to be leaders or already are leaders may want to heed Larson’s words and engage in serious self-assessment to determine whether they are ready to transition to or from a leadership position. In addition, aspiring or actual leaders may want to assess their leadership competencies, which can be done using a self-assessment instrument that is available at https://www.aonl.org/resources/online-assessments.

Fang and Mainous (2019) examined factors related to short term deanship, which they regarded as problematic. (A short tenure leadership position is one that ends sooner than the specific term of the position, such as 3 years or 5 or 6 years.) Their study of data from the 2016 American Association of Colleges of Nursing Annual Survey revealed that certain personal and organizational characteristics are associated with short tenure chief nursing academic administrator positions, including the titles of dean, chair, director, or department head. The characteristics are: age (60 or older) at beginning of the leadership position, having a title other than dean, being a dean who subsequently takes another deanship, being a first time dean, being a dean in a school without a tenure system, and being a dean of an associate degree program or a baccalaureate degree program.

As I read Fang and Mainous’s (2019) article, I wondered whether short tenure leadership positions are always problematic. Could it be that the position is not consistent with what the person hopes and dreams it will be? Could it be that the person’s leadership style is not conducive to inspiring a faculty or clinical staff to attain personal, professional, and/or organizational goals? Perhaps, then, transitioning from a short tenure leadership position may be a positive event for the nursologist leader and for the faculty or clinical staff. Perhaps everyone breathes “a sigh of relief” that the leader has transitioned from the position (Larson, 2019, p. 789).

Another situational transition, which may be combined with a developmental transition and which affects almost everyone, is retirement. Those nursologists who are contemplating retirement most likely were or still are leaders in the institutions where they work, even if they are not “official” leaders, such as deans, directors, or chairs. Larson (2019) discussed her decision to retire from her faculty position. She regards retirement as “the next transition in my career development” (p. 789). At age 76, Larson (2019) noted, she “made the scary and difficult decision to retire in less than a year . . . [and] not wait until people breathed a sigh of relief that I was finally gone” (p. 789).

Meleis (2016) wrote about her situational transition of anticipating, experiencing, and completing stepping up from a deanship. She explained that stepping up “connotes climbing to a higher place in our lives, taking with us what we learned in the previous [step]” (p. 187). Meleis identified and described five phases in the transition to and from a deanship. I will presume to be so bold as to generalize Meleis’ (2016) description of the deanship transition to all leaders, add a sixth phase (expressing an initial professional voice), and adapt the phases to both transitioning to and from a leadership position. The six phases are:

  1. Expressing an initial professional voice
  2. Deciding to transition to or from a leadership position
  3. Searching for the leadership position
  4. Being named to the position
  5. Exiting from the position by stepping up
  6. Reclaiming a professional voice

© 2020 Jacqueline Fawcett

I applaud those nursologists who are willing to transition to a leadership position and congratulate those who have transitioned from a leadership position. I send best wishes to all for much happiness, wellbecoming, and exciting and stimulating next ventures in stepping up.

References

Fang, D., & Mainous, R. (2019). Individual and institutional characteristics associated with short tenures of deanships in academic nursing. Nursing Outlook, 67, 578–585. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.outlook.2019.03.002

Fawcett, J. (2017). Applying conceptual models of nursing: Quality improvement, research, and practice. New York, NY: Springer.

Larson E. L. (2019). Musings on retirement. Nursing Outlook, 67, 789-790. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.outlook.2019.04.008

Meleis, A. I. (2016). The undeaning transition: Toward becoming a former dean. Nursing Outlook, 64(2), 186–196. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.outlook.2015.11.013

Waxman, K., Roussel, L., Herrin-Griffith, D., & D’Alfonso, J. (2017). The AONE nurse executive competencies: 12 years later. Nurse Leader, 15, 120–126. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mnl.2016.11.012

Perspectives of Nurses on the Term Nursology: An Informal Twitter Poll

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 nursingtheorycolletive@gmail.com, 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


References

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

Lillian Wald (March 10, 1867 – September 1, 1940)

Guardian of the Discipline

Co-authored by
Deborah Lindell, Adeline Falk-Rafael, Jacqueline Fawcett

Lillian Wald (retrieved from https://www.vnsny.org/timeline/#prettyPhoto)

A recent article in the American Journal of Nursing (Pittman, 2019) reignited our interest in Lillian Wald’s landmark accomplishments, most notably co-founding, with Mary Brewster, of the Henry Street Settlement in New York City in 1893 (Dock & Stewart, 1938).  “Their work” according to Dock and Stewart (1938), “led to the next development of visiting nursing by their relating it to all the social, economic and industrial conditions that affected their patients’ lives” (p. 162).

Pittman (2019) in her recent American Journal of Nursing article highlighting the importance of Wald’s practice as a model for the future, explained, “Wald’s model of care [involved] nurses working side by side with social workers at the intersection of medicine and society” (p. 46). Another perspective would be to think of Wald’s work as an approach to health care delivery that encompasses complementary services provided by nursologists and social workers.

A hallmark of Wald’s approach was prevention of illness and disease and promotion of wellness. Her approach was such that everyone had a nursologist for primary care, and that the nursologist referred those needing treatment for disease to a physician. We can only wonder how differently the health care system would have evolved if Wald’s model had indeed been become THE approach to health care.

Similarly, we can only wonder what would have happened had Wald’s model been incorporated and implemented as part of Grayce Sill’s (1983) proposal for the establishment of nursologist owned and operated corporations that contracted with all clinical agencies for provision of nursologists’ services (see our tribute to Grayce Sills here). Alternatively, we can only wonder would could happen if Wald’s model were to be incorporated into Parse’s (2019) proposal for establishment of “community centers owned and managed by [nursologists] that are regionally situated to offer services to a group of families in a region” (p. 169).

Wald’s delivery model, the focus of Pittman’s recent article. was extremely important because it allowed the nursologists to be, in Wald’s words, in an “organic relationship with the neighbourhood” and, therefore, allowed for the “development of community coalitions for influencing health and social policy” (Falk-Rafael (1999, p. 27).  The delivery model followed Nightingale’s model of district “health nursing,” which Wald re-created as public health nursing. It was a model, however, that facilitated the enactment of Wald’s conceptual model of nursing, which Falk-Rafael has argued followed the Nightingale model (Falk-Rafael, 1999, 2005). Like Nightingale, Wald considered the patient to be the central focus of practice and viewed the “patient” as the individual, family, or community within the context of society; valued caring and compassion; and emphasized a holistic, person-centered, multi-determinant view of health. It is Wald’s conceptual model that informed nursing practice and without which, the delivery model would not have achieved the success alluded to in Pittman’s AJN article.

Wald, as Nightingale before her, understood from providing care to those members of society who were impoverished, disenfranchised, and otherwise vulnerable, that many of the health issues they faced could be prevented by upstream actions focused on changing/enacting public policies. Like Nightingale, Wald’s delivery model ensured nursing care to address immediate health concerns “downstream,” while simultaneously working “upstream” to shape policies affecting health.  She lobbied for health care for those who were impoverished and established rural and school nursing. Moreover, again like Nightingale, Wald recognized the value of measuring outcomes. For example, she published narratives and graphs describing and depicting the dramatically lower death rates, overall and by age group, of 3535 children with pneumonia cared for in the home during 1914 by Henry Street nursologists compared to those admitted to hospitals (Wald, 1915, pp 38-39). Nor was Wald alone in her political activism among nursologists of the Henry Street Settlement (see “The Family” photo below). Lavinia Dock, the noted suffragist, and Margaret Sanger, who defied the Comstock Laws to provide contraceptive information to women and who established the forerunner of Planned Parenthood, were also Henry Street nursologists (Falk-Rafael, 2005).

Lillian Wald’s accomplishments extended beyond, albeit were connected with, the Henry Street Settlement. For example, she was elected the first president of the National Organization for Public Health Nursing “twenty years after [she] had gone to Henry Street to live and her name was known in many countries” (Dock & Stewart, 1938, p. 166). Earlier, Wald had contributed to the initiative to control the spread of tuberculosis, when she and Mary Brewster “bought sputum cups as part of their first equipment” for the Henry Street Settlement (Dock & Stewart, 1938, p. 325). Later, Wald contributed to the life insurance movement when, in 1909, she “arranged with Dr. Lee K. Frankel of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to have the Henry Street Visiting Nurses give their service to the sick industrial policy holders of that company, as a certain rate per visit” (Dock & Stewart, 1938, p. 344). In doing so, she increased health care accessibility to people who otherwise could not afford it and hoped to expand such accessibility through more partnerships with both the private and government sectors. In addition, Wald proposed what became the United States Children’s Bureau, which was established by Congress in 1912 (Dock & Stewart, 1938).

Lillian Wald’s work is an exemplar of Critical Caring, a mid-range theory rooted in the conceptual frameworks of Nightingale, Watson, and critical feminist social theories. This theory also emphasizes both downstream and upstream nursing as essential for population health and shares with Nightingale and Wald the tenet that justice-making is a manifestation of caring and compassion (Falk-Rafael, 2005).

References

Dock, L. L., & Stewart, I. M. (1938). A short history of nursing: From the earliest times to the present day(4thed.). New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Falk-Rafael, A. R, (1999). The politics of health promotion: Influences on public health promoting nursing practice in Ontario, Canada from Nightingale to the nineties. Advances in Nursing Science,22(1), 23.

Falk-Rafael, A. (2005). Speaking truth to power. Nursing’s legacy and moral imperative. Advances in Nursing Science, 28, 212-223.

Jewish Women’s Archive. “Lillian Wald.” (Viewed on July 26, 2019) <https://jwa.org/womenofvalor/wald>

Parse, R. R. (2019). Healthcare venues in transition: A paradigm shift? Nursing Science Quarterly, 32, 169-170.

Pittman, P. (2019). Rising to the challenge: Re-Embracing the Wald model of nursing. American Journal of Nursing, 119(7) 46-52.

Wald, L. (1915) The house on Henry Street.New York, NY: Henry Holt.

“The Family” about 1905. Standing, left to right: Jane Hitchcock, Sue Foote, Jene Travis. Second row, seated: Mary Magoun Brown, Lavinia Dock, Lillian D. Wald, Ysabella Waters, Henrietta Van Cleft. In Front: ‘Little Sammy’ Brofsky who ran everybody’s errands and ‘Florrie’ Long, the Coob’s little daughter and the “baby of the house.” (retrieved from https://www.vnsny.org/who-we-are/about-us/history/)

A Critical Review of 5 Nursing Journal Editorials on the Topic of Nursology

A recent CINAHL search with the keyword “Nursology” revealed 5 editorials in leading nursing journals that focus on acquainting the journal’s readers with the website and the initiative.  Not surprisingly, 3 of those editors were founding members of the Nursology.net website. Each shared a different aspect of the project.

Jacqueline Fawcett is the facilitator of the Nursology website management team.  In her guest editorial in the Journal of Advanced Nursing,1 she briefly reviewed the history of the term and argued for its revival, citing a previous published work.2 “Use of the term, nursology for the discipline,” she and colleagues had noted in 2015,  “avoids the tautology of using the word, nursing, as the label for the discipline and as a concept of our metaparadigm.” In other words, it identifies and distinguishes what nurses know(nursology) from what nurses do(nursing) by using different words.  Fawcett also identified possible disadvantages of a change in terminology, such as causing confusion, or interfering with progress made towards the goal of increasing the number of baccalaureate prepared nurses, although she did not elaborate on how. Fawcett went on to describe the formation of the website and outlined some of its contents: nursological philosophies, theories, and conceptual models with exemplars of the use of nursing theories in practice, education, and research; a history of disciplinary knowledge development; identification of past landmark events and future nursology-focused events, and resources. She concluded by giving examples of the positive feedback about the website that has been received and inviting readers to champion nursology as a disciplinary name or to offer alternative ideas.

Peggy Chinn is the webmaster of Nursology.net.  Her editorial introduces an issue of Advances in Nursing Science3 for which a call had been issued for articles addressing the focus of the discipline.  She noted this was in part to acknowledge that approximately 50 years had passed since a series of conferences had been initiated to explore the nature, focus, and future of disciplinary knowledge. The issue also appeared a few weeks before a similar conference, held at Case Western Reserve to commemorate those 50 years, and within months of the founding of Nursology.net. Chinn emphasized the nurse-led, nurse-developed nature of the site and  described it as providing “the most current and accurate information about nursing discipline-specific knowledge that advances human betterment globally.” She listed the assumptions and principles that guide the project: that nursology is a distinct discipline, vital to human health; is multidimensional bringing together diverse philosophical and theoretic perspectives; is autonomous and makes a unique contribution to health care; and that although nursology interacts with other disciplines cooperatively and collaboratively, it remains distinct and autonomous because it reflects the distinct perspective arising from caring in the human health experience. Chinn concluded by noting that these assumptions both shape the focus of the discipline and suggest issues that deserve serious consideration and discussion “not to achieve consensus but to appreciate the range of possibilities and diversities that inform and shape our discipline.” Whereas Chinn’s editorial highlights the philosophical underpinnings and beliefs that support the neurology.net initiative, it does not elaborate in detail on what ANS readers might expect to find on the site. 

 Jane Flanagan is a member of the Nursology.net management team and editor of the International Journal of Nursing Knowledge. She noted in her editorial4 that  the Nursology.net website is in keeping with the vision of the American Academy of Nursing Theory Guided Practice Expert Panel and described the purpose of the website is “to further the goals of what all of us as nurses are hoping to achieve…to explore the boundaries of nursing science and move that conversation in to a sphere where it reaches many.”  Flanagan noted the initial intent of the website- to be attractive, easy to read, and “overflowing with substance.” She indicated her hope that it will be a significant source of information for all nurses and those interested in nursing and invited feedback and participation of readers in contributing materials, blogs, and comments. She briefly described various sections of the site to provide examples of the resources that might be helpful to readers. Flanagan concluded by highlighting some of the similar reasons that Fawcett gave in her editorial for identifying the name of the discipline as nursology and those who practice, teach, or research disciplinary knowledge as nursologists. She noted, “ the name itself separates us from the stereotype and the reality in some quarters that we are handmaidens to physicians.” Flanagan’s editorial was the first to be published of all 5 editorials, just a month after the launch of the nursology.net website.  While she could have, perhaps, given more details about site contents, she does direct readers to the website for further information.  Her  palpable excitement at being “on the ground floor” of this project will probably encourage them to do so! 

The 3 editorials from members of the nursology.net management team were, as might be expected, exceedingly positive about the site and the initiative.  Two editorials were written by nursing editors who were not part of the Nursology.net management team. While their perspectives vary considerably, they may offer the most substantive perspectives and may prompt further serious and extensive discussion of these issues.

Rosemarie Rizzo Parse’s editorial in Nursing Science Quarterly5 did not share the excitement and optimism evident in the above editorials.  Her understanding of the goal of the website is “to change the name of the discipline of nursing”. She commented favorably on the site’s “décor” but misleadingly reduced its content to a blog, “where contributors continue to add any material they wish without support evidence for the change.”  It is unfortunate that the readers of NSQ are not informed of the stated mission and purpose  of the website, which include developing a repository of nursing knowledge, disseminating that knowledge, and encouraging collaboration among nursing scholars. Currently the website profiles 45 nursing theories, ranging from conceptual frameworks to situation-specific theories, with the Theory of Humanbecoming among them. Parse posited that efforts would be better directed at “making nursing science the hallmark of the discipline” and then asked a number of important questions about what such a change would mean, including how nursing educational programs could base courses on nursing knowledge when there is pressure by accrediting agencies to include more medical-bio-behavioral content. It is not clear how she sees that conundrum being addressed by either term,  nursology or nursing science. Despite having acknowledged that the “proposed change is consistent with O’Toole’s statement  in Mosby’s Medical Dictionary,” the editorial concluded that the change in name ”lacks semantic consistency with disciplinary knowledge and upends logical coherence.”

Sally Thorne’s editorial in Nursing Inquiry,6 begins with her admission of having a long-standing discomfort with the term “Nursing Science”, first because it sounds like a qualifier to science, “as if nurses take part in a skewed, partial, or watered-down version of the scientific enterprise,” and secondly, because the term nursing science has largely been used to describe nursing theorizing, rather than “formal scientific investigation.” Thorne contextualized the introduction of the Nursology.net website as a response from nursing thought leaders arising from their shared awareness and concerns of external pressures that are increasingly shaping nursing and threatening the further advancement of the discipline, and provided readers of Nursing Inquiry with citations of articles exploring the implications of those pressures for the preservation of “core disciplinary knowledge.” Thorne noted the term, Nursology, has been used in nursing literature at least as early as 1971 and, although she confessed to some discomfort with using the term, preferring to use “the study of nursing”, she enthusiastically endorsed the direction  the conversations that have led to the Nursology.net initiative have taken. She concluded that she will be watching the Nursology.net conversation with great excitement, “hoping that it attracts the attention, engagement, and dialogue it deserves, and that it helps bring a new generation of nurses back into an appreciative understanding of why the study of nursing really matters.”

I think I can speak on behalf of the Nursology.net management team in saying, we share that hope! And, I would ask if “ology” refers to “the study of” and is widely used by many other disciplines, e.g, pharmacology, biology, why is there such a hesitancy (I’ve experienced it in talking to other nurses about neurology as well) to use nursology to refer to the unique body of knowledge that is nursing knowledge?  Is it simply prudent caution to make the change for the reasons a number of the editors raised? To what extent does it feel pretentious, i.e., have we internalized a broader societal message that our body of knowledge is not as substantial or valuable as those of other fields? Is this another manifestation of “I’m just a nurse?” And/or, is it simply that it’s new and unfamiliar?

  1. Fawcett J. Nursology revisted and revived. J Adv Nurs. 2019; 1(2):1-2.
  2. Fawcett J, Aronowitz T, AbuFannouneh A, et al. Thoughts about the Name of Our Discipline. Nurs Sci Q.2015;28(4):330-333.
  3. Chinn PL. Introducing Nursology.net. ANS Adv Nurs Sci.2019;42(Jan-Mar):1.
  4. Flanagan J. Nursology – a Site by nurses, for nurses. Int J Nurs Knowl.2018;29(4).
  5. Parse RR. Nursology: What’s in a Name? Nurs Sci Q.2019;32(2):93-94.
  6. Thorne S. The study of nursing. Nurs Inq.2019;26(1):1-2.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Silence-Exploring Perceptions of Power as Freedom in the World of Nursologists

by Julianne Mazzawi, Jacqueline Fawcett and Rosanna DeMarco

In 2015, the American Nurses Association released a purpose and position statement indicating that it is an individual and shared responsibility among all nursologists and employers to promote and sustain a culture of respect that is free of incivility, bullying, and workplace violence. Such a culture reflects the ethical, moral, and legal responsibility of everyone to create a healthy and safe work environment for all members of the healthcare team, participants in healthcare (sometimes called patients), families, and communities. So why is it that nursologists and their support staff continue to show manifestations of “silencing-the-self” when instances of incivility, bullying, and even violence occur? (DeMarco, Fawcett, & Mazzawi., 2017, p. 4)?

Too often, nursologists experience sleep problems, anxiety, distress, oppression, burnout, absence from or leaving work, organizational frustration, and job dissatisfaction, and commit more errors due primarily to incivility, bullying, and violence in the workplace (Lim & Berstein, 2014; The Joint Commission, 2008; Vagharseyyedin, 2015) Obviously, it is imperative to resolve these negative outcomes for all current and future nursologists.

We conceptualized civility and incivility within the context of Neuman’s Systems Model. (See model below). Accordingly, the client system was represented by the nursologists who are the perpetrators or recipients of covert incivility (CI), defined as the “appearance of civility with negative intent” (DeMarco et al., 2018, p. 254). Stressors were represented by CI, and the reaction to stressors was represented by such manifestations as sleep problems, anxiety, oppression, burnout, and organizational frustration. The reactions were regarded as the impact of CI on nursologists who are faculty, students, and staff nurses, as well as witnesses to CI. The workplace (academic or clinical) and society also may experience reactions to CI. We identified several prevention as interventions for CI, with an emphasis on secondary and tertiary interventions; we explained that these interventions “need to be directed to existing levels of CI of all kinds that include measuring the level of ‘silencing-the-self'” (DeMarco et al., 2018, p. 256).

2018 © Jacqueline Fawcett

Of course, primary prevention as intervention also must be considered; we recommended educating all students and graduate nursologists about both overt incivility and signs of CI and creating contracts for nursologists focused on “creating a formal promise to not engage in overt of covert incivility and addressing the behavior direction at the individual, group, and systems levels” (DeMarco et al. 2018, p 257).

In this blog, we offer the specific recommendation that focus on resolution of CI through application of nursological theories of power. Resolution of CI, we are convinced, will occur when nursologists’ perceptions of power change from perceptions of others having power over them to perceptions of power as freedom to choose and peace as power.

The idea for this blog was Mazzawi’s and Fawcett’s attendance at the 2018 Society of Rogerian Scholars (https://nursology.net/2018/10/09/celebrating-30-years-the-society-of-rogerian-scholars/), at which the four nursological theories of power discussed here were presented. We began to imagine a world where nursologists perceive power as freedom to choose and peace as power rather than perceiving power as others having power over them to control them and that in this world, civility would reign, bullying and workplace violence would not happen, and only positive outcomes would occur!

Four nursological theories of power provide explanations of having power that leads to civil discourse and the conversion of negative outcomes to positive outcomes.

  • Barrett’s (2010). theory of power as knowing participation in change provides a contrast between power as freedom and power as control and encompasses awareness, choices, freedom to act intentionally, and involvement in creating change. Participating knowingly in the ongoing mutual process with ourselves, with other people, and with our immediate world creates the opportunity for not only fulfillment in one’s life but also the opportunity to create positive change. (See https://nursology.net/nurse-theorists-and-their-work/theory-of-power-as-knowing-participation-in-change/).
  • Chinn’s (2013; Chinn & Falk-Rafael, 2015) theory of peace and power provides a contrast between peace-power and power-over. The theory empathizes how “individuals and groups . . . shape their actions and interactions to promote cooperation, inclusion of all points of view in making decisions and in addressing conflicts. [Accordingly], … individuals and groups can make thoughtful choices about the ways they work together to promote healthy, growthful interactions and avoid harmful, damaging interactions.” (Retrieved from https://nursology.net/nurse-theorists-and-their-work/peace-power/)
  • Polifroni’s (2010) theory of clinical power provides a contrast between having power as the result of knowledge and hierarchical power or taking power from another person. The theory emphasizes “the belief that power is knowledge and all nurses possess that power. In this context power is a right and it is truth/knowledge. Intentionality, authenticity, ways of knowing, PEACE . . . and CARE . . . surround the awareness and relationship of the nurse who is exercising clinical power” (Retrieved from https://nursology.net/nurse-theorists-and-their-work/clinical-power/).
  • Sieloff’s (1995, 2018) theory of work team/group empowerment in organizations provides an understanding of how nursologists have power in clinical and educational organizations. The theory encompasses competency in communication and in explicating goals and outcomes, as well as the work team/group’s leader’s competency; control of environmental forces; utilization of resources; empowerment perspective; empowerment potential and actual capacity to achieve outcomes; role, that is, the “degree to which the work of an [organization] is accomplished through the efforts of [a work team/group]” (Sieloff, 1995, p. 58); and position, that is, “the centrality of [the] nursing [work team/group] within the communication network of an [organization]” (Sieloff, 1995, p. 57).

Application of the power theories as ways to enhance understanding and resolution of CI provides a nursology discipline-specific approach to practice. Readers are invited to share their experiences with application of the power theories as comments for this blog.

References

American Nurses’ Association. (2015). Incivility, bullying, and workplace violence. Retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/WorkplaceSafetyHealthy-
Nurse/bullyingworkplaceviolence/Incivility-Bullying-and-Workplace-Violence.html.

Barrett, E. (2010). Power as knowing participation in change: What’s new and what’s next. Nursing Science Quarterly, 23, 47-54.

Chinn, P. L. (2013). Peace & power: New directions for building community (8th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning.

Chinn, P. L., & Falk-Rafael, A. R. (2015). Peace and power: A theory of emancipatory group process. Journal of Nursing Scholarship. 47, 62–69.

DeMarco, R., F., Fawcett, J., & Mazzawi, J. (2017). Covert incivility: Challenges as a challenge in the nursing academic workplace. Journal of Professional Nursing, 1-6.
doi:10.1016/j.profnurs.2017.10.001

Lim, F. A., & Berstein, I. (2014). Civility and workplace bullying: Resonance of
persona and current best practices. Nursing Forum, 49, 124-129.

Polifroni, E. C. (2010). Power right and truth: Foucault’s triangle as a model for clinical power. Nursing Science Quarterly, 238-412

Sieloff, C. L. (1995). Development of a theory of departmental power. In M. A. Frey & C. L. Sieloff (Eds.), Advancing King’s systems framework and theory of nursing (pp. 46-65). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sieloff, C. L. (2018, October 6). Thoughts about nursing and power: Theory of work team/group empowerment. Paper presented as part of a symposium on nursological theories of power at the Society of Rogerian Scholars 30th Anniversary Conference, New York University Rory Myers College of Nursing, New York, NY.

The Joint Commission (2008). Behaviors that undermine a culture of safety. Retrieved from https://www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/18/SEA_40.PDF.

Vagharseyyedin, S.A. (2015). Workplace incivility: A concept analysis. Contemporary Nurse, 50, 115-125.

About the authors

Julianne Mazzawi

Julianne Mazzawi, RN; MS
PhD candidate, Department of Nursing
University of Massachusetts Boston

Jacqueline Fawcett, RN; PhD; ScD (hon); FAAN; ANEF
Professor, Department of Nursing
University of Massachusetts Boston

Rosanna F. DeMarco, RN; PhD;  PHNA-BC; FAAN
Professor and Chair, Department of Nursing
University of Massachusetts Boston

Jacqueline Fawcett

Rosanna DeMarco

What are Legitimate Nursology Specialties?

 Bittencourt, Marques, and Mendes Diniz de Andrade Barroso’s (2018) paper, published in Revista de Enfermagem Referência, catalyzed my thoughts about labels for legitimate specialties in the discipline of nursology. (Scroll down for information about the authors and access to the article website.) Clearly, concern for nursology-discipline specific knowledge is of interest to our scholar colleagues from Brazil (Dr. Bittencourt) and Portugual (Dr. Dias Marques and Dr. Mendes Diniz de Andrade Barroso). They presented an innovative approach to further development of nursology by placing a traditional specialty (mental health) within the context of various nursological conceptual models and theories. (Download the PDF of the English open-access article here).

Bittencourt and colleagues (2018) pointed out that although nursologists “have been conducting studies with the purpose of promoting mental health in schools and other settings . . . based on evidence that clearly points to the effectiveness of promotion strategies, [nursological] theories are rarely put forward as a basis for these nurse-led mental health promotion strategies” (Bittencourt et al., 2018, p. 126). They recommended that nursological conceptual models and theories should be used to expand thinking about the practice of mental health promotion and described the contributions of Meleis’ Transitions Theory, Pender’s Health Promotion Model, Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations, and Roy’s Adaptation Model  to research and practice for promotion of mental health.

The starting point for Bittencourt and colleagues’ (2018) proposal is a traditional specialty area that imitates a medical specialty, that is, mental health. Nursologists typically identify with this and other specialties drawn from medicine, including but not limited to medical, surgical, obstetrical, and pediatric specialties. These specialties comprise many undergraduate and graduate educational curricula, the broad areas of nursologists’ research, and the naming of departments in clinical agencies. Thus, just as Bittencourt et al. (2018) did for the specialty of mental health, nursological conceptual models and theories could be used as guides for the content of the courses, research, and practice in other specialty areas.

But what if the content of each nursological conceptual model and theory was used to designate specialties? For example, many years ago, Rogers (1973) proposed that the subsystems of Johnson’s Behavioral System Model could be nursology-specific specialties. Accordingly, specialties for curriculum content, research, and practice could be the aggressive subsystem, the attachment subsystem, the achievement subsystem, the ingestive subsystem, the eliminative subsystem, the dependency subsystem, and the sexual subsystem. Similarly, specialties within the context of Neuman’s Systems Model could be physiological variables, psychological variables, sociocultural variables, developmental variables, and spiritual variables.
Although the proposal that specialties should be within the context of each nursological conceptual model and theory may be regarded as preposterous, at least some nursologists have understood the value and importance of labels for specialties that differentiate the discipline and profession of nursology from other sciences and especially from the trade of medicine. For example, Batey and Eyres (1979) explained that “Language is fundamental to the evolution of all disciplines [and] [w]ithin any discipline, selected terminology evolves to become the concepts that denote the specific knowledge domains and methodologies of that discipline” (p. 139). Moreover, “Every science has its own peculiar terms, concepts and principles which are essential for the development of its knowledge base. In [nursology] , as in other sciences, an understanding of these is a prerequisite to a critical examination of their contribution to the development of knowledge and its application to practice” (Akinsanya, 1989, p. ii). Barrett (2003) added, “How would one understand anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, . . . without the precise use of language reflecting those domains of knowledge? . . . How else is substantive knowledge to be communicated without saying it is what it is that it is!” (p. 280).

As we think about the admittedly potential choas of having such diverse nursology-specific specialties, we may move to an innovative and integrative way of identifying the specialities that accurately delineate what nursologists actually teach, study, and practice. Clearly, we need to move to (paraphrasing) what Allison and Renpenning (1999) called thinking nursology, what Watson (1996) called nursology qua nursology, and certainly what Meleis (1993) pointed out is the need to progress from thinking like and pretending to be junior doctors to being senior nursologists.

Noteworthy is that many of the ideas included in this blog come from publications of decades ago. Yet, no progress has been made in all that time. So, what do you think nursology-specific specialties should be? Should we continue with the status quo of using the same terms as does medicine with the added value of the context of nursological conceptual models and theories? Or, should we be finally be bold and use the languge of our nursological conceptual models and theories to name and structure our specialties?

References

Akinsanya, J.A. (1989). Introduction. Recent Advances in Nursing, 24, i–ii.

Allison, S. E., & Renpenning, K. (1999). Nursing administration in the 21st century. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Barrett. E. A. M. (2003). Response to Letter to the Editor. Nursing Science Quarterly, 16, 27-28.

Batey, M. V., & Eyres, S. J. (1979). Interdisciplinary semantics: Implications for research. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 1, 139-141.

Bittencourt, M. N., Dias Marques, M. I., & Mendes Diniz de Andrade Barroso, T. M. (2018). Contributions of nursing theories in the practice of the mental health promotion. Revista de Enfermagem Referência, 4(18), 125–132.

Meleis, A. I. (1993, April). Nursing research and the Neuman model: Directions for the future. Panel discussion at the Fourth Biennial International Neuman Systems Model Symposium (B. Neuman, A. I. Meleis, J. Fawcett, L. Lowry, M. C. Smith, and A. Edgil, participants), Rochester, NY.

Rogers, C. G. (1973). Conceptual models as guides to clinical nursing specialization. Journal of Nursing Education, 12(4), 2–6.

Watson, M. J. (1996). Watson’s theory of transpersonal caring. In P. Hinton Walker & B. Neuman (Eds.), Blueprint for use of nursing models (pp. 141–184). New York, NY: NLN Press.

About the authors

  • Marina Nolli Bittencourt, RN; Ph.D. is an Adjunct Professor, at the Federal University of Amapá, in Macapá, Brazil
  • Maria Isabel Dias Marques, Ph.D., is a Coordinating Professor, in the Nursing School of Coimbra,in Coimbra, Portugal
  • Tereza Maria Mendes Diniz de Andrade Barroso, Ph.D., is an Adjunct Professor in the Nursing School of Coimbra, in Coimbra, Portugal

Access the article

The file for their journal article, Contributions of nursing theories in the practice of the mental health promotion, is available in English and Portuguese at https://doi.org/10.12707/RIV18015. The abstract is available in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

The journal, Revista de Enfermagem Referência, is the property of the Escola Superior de Enfermagem de Coimbra.

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.