How Evidenced Based Practice Supports Inequality

Guest contributor: Mike Taylor,
Member, Nursology Theory Collective

About six years ago, the Maryland Department of Health sponsored a conference for all state stakeholders with an interest in chronic disease, including nursing and medical groups, hospitals, EMS and diabetes product companies. The latest evidenced based practice models were being presented but I was only half listening because I, like most of those in the room, already knew what we were going to hear. Which is what happened, in session after session we heard that non-white patients had the highest incidence in all chronic disease states, probably related to genes or culture, and the major solutions were primarily public awareness and ethnic specific education without any mention of the role of racism.

So, I decided to shake things up and during the break went to the Department of Health table in the exhibit hall and asked the two representatives there if we were ready to tackle institutional racism or if we were still playing around the edges. Looking unsure what to say, one of them responded “we are still playing around the edges” but offered that there was a new director who may be willing to talk with me and she would send her over to my table. She never came and the chance for a different conversation ended there.

While the department of health representatives didn’t deny the existence of institutional racism, unless evidence of institutional racism and other inequalities are allowed to be presented as part of the discussion nothing will change.

In addressing institutional racism, we tend to spend 80% of our time on awareness which is only 20% of the problem and not on changing institutions which is 80% of the problem. In this first of a series of blogs, I will argue that evidenced based practice (EBP) is a key component of the institutional structures that support racial and economic inequalities. The evidence about any clinical subject is often contradictory even in well-designed studies which is not a problem but simply a feature of the difficulty of doing science. The fact that the evidence found in scientific journals provides a range of possible answers, requires practioners, practice organizations and health systems to make choices about what evidence to include and not to include in their own practice and in practice guidelines. The science of EBP may appear to be objective but the process of choosing the subject and design of studies along with what evidence to use and how to use it is inherently subjective and open to bias that perpetuate economic and racial inequalities.

Institutional selection of what evidence to include in policy and practice is based on the degree of fit with an existing institutional theory. The institutional theories that support inequalities in race and poverty, are unspoken but widely accepted theories of health without theoreticians and based on unquestioned assumptions which can make them hard to challenge.

If we in the Nursing Theory Collective specifically and in nursing in general, are to undertake this fight to change the intertwined histories of these inequalities we must concentrate on changing the institutions and the false assumptions they are based on, and demand alternatives. Follow-up blogs will examine the use of EBP in supporting three areas of institutional inequalities including the maintenance of structural racism, control of nursing practice and control of patient autonomy. Please reach out to me and tell me what assumptions you have found in your work that you feel need to be questioned.

About William (Mike) Taylor

Mike Taylor is an independent nursing theorist specializing in the application of complexity science to health and compassion. His Unified Theory of Meaning Emergence takes a major stride in connecting the mathematics of complexity with self-transcendence and compassion. He has spoken at international, national and regional conferences on complexity in nursing, health, and business. He is a member of the board of the Plexus Institute where he is the lead designer of the Commons Project, a web based platform for rapid social evolution in climate change.

Letter to the ANA

On September 26, 2020, the Nursology.net management team sent the following letter to the American Nursses Association, urging the organization to take a stand on the U.S. Presidential election candidates. We believe that given the dual pandemic of COVID-19 and racism, nursing’s strong voice of advocacy for the health of the nation must be heard. Here is the letter in its entirety:

September 26, 2020
Dr. Loressa Cole, ANA Enterprise CEO
Dr. Ernest J. Grant, President, ANA President
Dr. Debbie Hatmaker, Chief Nursing Officer, ANA Enterprise
American Nurses Association

Dear Drs. Cole, Grant and Hatmaker:


The Management Team of Nursology.net is writing to urge the American Nurses Association (ANA) to reverse its position against endorsing any candidate for President/Vice President in the 2020 election. We understand that the ANA reversed its previous policy to endorse presidential candidates based on the desire to “engage nurses in the voting process through providing accurate information and data and promoting nursing’s political advocacy role without alienating an entire contingency…acknowledging the reality of political polarization in this country” (ANA 2019 Membership Assembly Consideration of ANA’s Presidential Endorsement Process).

The recent draft of the document, Nursing’s Scope and Standards (2020), specifies nursing’s social contract with the public. The document includes nursing’s commitment to reject racism and promote equity and social justice for all. In addition, the document points to nursing’s accountability and responsibility to promote the health of all populations and to advocate for social and environmental justice, and access to high quality and equitable health care.

The proposed ANA Scope and Standards contradicts the ANA position against endorsing a presidential candidate if a particular candidate is a threat to equity, social justice, equitable healthcare and health for the population. While we respect that the Board made their decision thoughtfully, the current situation calls for a reconsideration based on the positions of the current administration that threaten public health. Scientific American, a journal who has never endorsed a candidate for president, has broken with their policy because of the dangerous anti-science views of the President

Today, the country needs to hear nursing’s voice related to this election from the ANA. We find ourselves in the midst of a perfect storm fueled by the mismanagement of a global pandemic, a health and environmental crisis from rampant fires, storms and floods attributed by scientists to climate change, and the public health crisis of systemic racism.

Many have referred to this election as the most consequential in recent history, certainly in our lifetimes. This is not the time for the nursing profession to sit out and fail to exercise our unified voice and moral authority. As the discipline focused on caring for the health and well-being of the people with an understanding of how the physical, social, political and economic environment influences health and well-being, and as the most trusted profession, the ANA must speak out against the policies of the current administration and endorse Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for President and Vice President. Please reconsider your position based on the actions taken by President Trump after your vote in 2019.

Here are a few reasons why we urge the ANA to reconsider and endorse the presidential ticket that is aligned with nursing values and actions and protects the public health:

  • The current administration’s lack of leadership to enact policies to stem the rising incidence of COVID-19 infections, including the President’s lack of providing timely information to the public that could have prevented thousands of infections and death
  • The current administration’s policies that have threatened accessibility to healthcare for millions of Americans by working to overturn the advances made through the ACA
  • The current administration’s position that denies human contributions to climate change and fails to support policies to abate its dangers.
  • The current administration’s lack of acknowledgement of the racial injustices experienced by people of color, especially Black people, at the hands of law enforcement.
  • The current administration’s policies of family separation at the border resulting in hundreds of children being placed in inhumane and dangerous conditions to their health and well-being.
  • The current administration’s lack of meaningful responsiveness to address the public health crisis of gun violence.

While the recommendations of the ANA’s Presidential Endorsement Process (2019) advocate for individual nurses to participate in election activities at the local, state and national levels and take advantage of educational opportunities to learn about the candidates that will inform their voting, nurses will look to the ANA for leadership, especially now. The ANA is the voice of the profession, and this is not the time for that voice to be silent. Without a unified position, the nursing profession is invisible, and the public trust in nursing’s commitment to protecting public health is compromised. Individual nurses can always vote their choice, but the unified voice of our profession is critical at this time in our history.

Please reverse your position and endorse the candidates that will advance policies that protect the health of the public. We cannot be silent. To be silent is to be complicit.

Thank you for your serious consideration of this request.

Respectfully,

Peggy L. Chinn, RN, PhD, DSc(Hon), FAAN peggychinn@gmail.com

Jessica Dillard-Wright, MA, MSN, CNM, RN jdillardwright@gmail.com

Rosemary William Eustace, PhD, RN, PHNA-BC

Jacqueline Fawcett, RN, PhD, ScD(hon), FAAN, ANEF

Jane Flanagan, PhD, RN, ANP-BC, AHN-BC, FNAP, FNI, FAAN

Dorothy Jones, RN, PhD, FAAN

Deborah Lindell, DNP, MSN, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN, Deborah.Lindell@gmail.com

Chloe Olivia Rose Littzen, MSN, RN, AE-C

Leslie H. Nicoll, PhD, RN, FAAN leslie@medesk.com

Adeline Falk-Rafael, PhD, RN, FAAN afalk-rafael@rogers.com

Marlaine C. Smith, RN, PhD, AHN-BC, HWNC-BC, FAAN

Marian Turkel, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FAAN

Danny Willis, DNS, RN, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN

Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing

Our Nursology.net community is committed to addressing the burning issue of racism, how this systemic condition has influenced the development of nursing knowledge, and how this situation can be changed (see our statement on racism in the sidebar for more information). The NurseManifest project has just announced a series of web discussions “Overdue Reckoning on Racism in Nursing” that will interest many nursologists! Starting on September 12th, and every week through October 10th! This initiative is in part an outgrowth of the 2018 Nursing Activism Think Tank and inspired by recent spotlights on the killing of Black Americans by police, and the inequitable devastation for people of color caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Racism in nursing has persisted far too long, sustained in large part by our collective failure to acknowledge the contributions and experiences of nurses of color. The intention of each session is to bring the voices of BILNOC (Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other Nurses Of Color) to the center, to explore from that center the persistence of racism in nursing, and to inspire/form actions to finally reckon with racism in nursing.

Lucinda Canty, Christina Nyirati and Peggy Chinn have teamed up to create the plan – you can see the details here; it is also easily accessed from the NurseManifest main menu!

Never a Guardian: Remembering Breonna Taylor

Want to learn more about Nursing and Racism? Read the following Nursology blogs: Nursing and Racism and Decolonizing Nursing.

Artwork used with permission of the artist Ariel Sinha

The Guardians of the Discipline is a series featured on Nursology.net as a way to commemorate the giants whose shoulders we stand on as we forge our nursing paths. Today, we – the Nursology Theory Collective – would like to memorialize someone who never had the chance to join the discipline, though we understand that she intended to be a nurse (Oppel & Taylor, 2020). Her name is Breonna Taylor. Murdered by the police executing a “no-knock” warrant, Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, was murdered as she slept in her home. Startled by the unannounced and forced entry of Louisville law enforcement, Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend – a licensed gun owner – began firing his gun, assuming their home was being invaded. The police returned fire, striking Breonna who died six excruciating minutes later, no aid ever rendered (Simko-Bednarski et al., 2020). Final analyses showed the police had invaded the wrong home and that she remained alive for minutes without critical aid being offered. Lack of further investigations suggests that  Breonna Taylor’s life has seemingly been brushed aside. To date, no one has been held accountable for her murder. The no-knock policy remains uninterrogated (Oppel & Taylor, 2020).

We wish to honor Breonna Taylor, recognizing the structural missingness her death signifies in our profession (Hopkins Walsh & Dillard-Wright, 2020). NTC members Jane Hopkins Walsh and Jessica Dillard-Wright (2020) “synthesized the concept of structural missingness to capture the state of exclusion from healthcare due to inequalities within a system, a country or globally” (p.1). The concept was imagined to capture the injustices and inadequacies of talking about healthcare as a structurally-sound starting place for any kind of analysis, recognizing the people and groups who are all too often missing in colonized and capitalism driven spaces. In this blog post, we wish to extend this concept, recognizing the implications that the murder of Breonna Taylor has for nursing, acknowledging that nursing will never have the opportunity to learn from her knowledge and experience. 

Breonna Taylor’s murder is a structural missingness double-jeopardy. Her murder points to violent systemic racism, inequities and injustice. As a discipline, nursing is part of the racist system, and carries this internalized and systematized racial prejudice (Barbee, 1993; Barbee & Gibson, 2001). Nursing bears the hallmarks of normative whiteness, part of the hidden curriculum of nursing enacted through practices rooted in the received values around respectability; what are accepted dress codes, hairstyles, body art, leading to gatekeeping, professionalism codes, and civility policing that narrowly define what a nurse looks like (Allen, 2006; Puzan, 2003).  Scholar Ibraham Kendi refers to this implicit racist system as the “White judge” (Kendi, 2017 p. 4). Nursing professor @UMassWalker recently spoke to this idea in their critique of the vague and subjectively worded term “good moral character” bound within their university’s prelicensure nursing syllabus (see Twitter post from July 22, 2020). Dr. Walker’s blog post the next day further expanded upon the issues of institutional racism in the system of nursing education. These enshrined messages and images of how nurses ought to look, speak and act connect back to our received historical narratives- the stories that tell stories (Haraway, 2016). 

The Nightingale chronicles are an example of how this image of normative whiteness in nursing continues to be the dominant legend for all who enter the profession. The reified Nightingale history embeds systemic values that intersect race narratives alongside received norms for behavior, gender, sexuality, and class. Mary Seacole who self identified in her writings as a Creole person, was a Jamaican nurse and peer of Nightingale’s who was awarded international medals for her service in the Crimean war. She was a published author, commented on political issues of slavery and racism, made scientific observations around cholera and diarrhea, but historical letters suggest she was deemed unsuitable for service by Nightingale and other British authorities. Her contributions to nursing are underreported, diminished and debated to this day (McDonald, 2014; Staring‐Derks et al., 2015).

Breonna Taylor will never graduate from nursing school. Murdered in her sleep, she has been rendered structurally missing by virtue of her death by brutal aggressive police actions, a victim of the very institution that purports to serve and protect. Breonna is forever erased from our discipline. We recognize this injustice and by honoring her memory, we refuse to ignore the political ideologies that fail to interrogate aggressive policing systems that neglect to bring her killers, who are still free, before the court. Her death speaks to the complex and structurally violent structures that silently continue to collude, reifying nursing’s hegemony through systematic exclusions and injustices surrounding Black people who are systematically oppressed and erased. We, the discipline of nursing, are not immune from the effects of police brutality, and as a result a future nurse and colleague is missing. Furthermore, nursing is not immune from perpetuating racist systems. We must actively work towards a more just, equitable, and inclusive discipline, recognizing that the minimum bar of humanness demands actively protesting and opposing police brutality and the unacceptable murders of Black people, including Breonna Taylor.

What can you do to support Breonna Taylor, who never got to be a guardian of our discipline?

  1. Learn more about Breonna Taylor and her murder.
  2. Sign a petition demanding justice for Breonna Taylor’s murder.
  3. Read the Nursology Theory Collective anti-racism statement and commit to be actively anti-racist. 
  4. Use the platforms you have to name, address, and dismantle racism and white supremacy in the systems in which you work and live.
  5. Contact your local, state and federal elected officials weekly to inquire about legislation they are enacting to combat violent police practices against Black people and other Non Black People of Color.
  6. Consider running for elected office to embody the change we want to see.
  7. Constructively critique existing nursing theories and philosophies to deconstruct the effects of colonization of our formal knowledge base and to understand the ways that racialized systems and structures influence the development of our discipline.
  8. Use these insights to develop anti-racist research, theory, education, practice and policy that is aimed to decolonize nursing.

References

Allen, D. G. (2006). Whiteness and difference in nursing. Nursing Philosophy, 7(2), 65–78. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1466-769X.2006.00255.x

Barbee, E. L. (1993). Racism in US nursing. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 7(4), 346-362. https://doi.org/10.1525/maq.1993.7.4.02a00040

Barbee, E. L., & Gibson, S. E. (2001). Our dismal progress: The recruitment of non-whites into nursing. Journal of Nursing Education, 40(6), 243-244. https://doi.org/10.3928/0148-4834-20010901-03

Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.

Hopkins Walsh, J., & Dillard-Wright, J. (2020). The case for “structural missingness:” A critical discourse of missed care. Nursing Philosophy, 21(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/nup.12279

Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. One world.

McDonald, L. (2014). Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole on nursing and health care. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70(6), 1436–1444. https://doi.org/10.1111/jan.12291

Oppel, R. A., & Taylor, D. B. (2020, July 9). Here’s What You Need to Know About Breonna Taylor’s Death. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/article/breonna-taylor-police.html

Puzan, E. (2003). The unbearable whiteness of being (in nursing). Nursing Inquiry, 10(3), 193–200. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1800.2003.00180.x

Simko-Bednarski, E., Snyder, A., & Ly, L. (2020, July 18). Lawsuit claims Breonna Taylor lived for “5 to 6 minutes” after being shot. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/18/us/breonna-taylor-lawsuit/index.html

Staring‐Derks, C., Staring, J., & Anionwu, E. N. (2015). Mary Seacole: Global nurse extraordinaire. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 71(3), 514–525. https://doi.org/10.1111/jan.12559

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.