Why Not Nursology?

Photo – Adeline Falk-Rafael © 2018

Dr. Jacqui Fawcett  eloquently argued the case for “Why Nursology “a few weeks back. Another question might be asked – why not nursology? The use of “logy” – the study of – is widely used as a convention for identifying the knowledge base of other disciplines, e.g, biology, sociology, psychology, etc. On the other hand, the word “nursing” can be confusing because it has both popular uses, such as sipping a drink slowly or breastfeeding, and professional uses such as nursing (practice) and nursing (knowledge). It is beyond time for distinguishing between those two professional meanings. I believe doing so will go a long way toward making nursing knowledge visible, not only to other health disciplines and the public, but also to nurses and nursing students themselves. Language is powerful – it is the reason, I have previously advocated for replacing the term “student nurse” with nursing student. I look forward to that becoming nursology students!

I am excited about this initiative! Perhaps that is because my first nursing program was a hospital-based diploma program in the Canadian mid-west during the early 1960s in which the only reference to nursing science that I recall was a textbook called “The Art and Science of Nursing.”  The science of nursing was, sadly,  never explicated. I learned nursing basically as an ancillary medical service, i.e., the care required in the context of specific medical diagnoses and/or treatments. Over the next 15 years, I worked in various units in different hospitals in different cities and provinces. I practiced as I had been taught and consistent with how other Registered Nurses practiced. I say with some shame that I wasn’t reading nursing journals during that time and looking back, I think that was the norm for my colleagues, as well. Hospital or unit procedure books provided the necessary instruction for how to perform essential tasks.

It wasn’t until I moved into a leadership position and took a nursing leadership course that I was introduced to and required to engage with nursing (and other) literature. I marveled at how nursing leaders so articulately argued the contributions nurses make to health and healing, contributions that were based on nurses’ assessments and judgments, independent of medical directives. Nursing  process, nursing diagnoses and nursing theories excited me because they named and provided systematic structure for the work that nurses did in promoting health and healing. In other words, they began to make the invisible, visible! I began to read books and papers on my own, but soon realized I needed more knowledge and returned to school.

I don’t think my journey was unusual for that time. What grieves me is seeing still, much too often, nurses who acknowledge the biological, physiological, psychological, sociological and/or medical knowledge that informs their practice but fail to recognize the critical contribution of nursing knowledge. Nursology is a term that by its very nature emphasizes the disciplinary field of study that informs nursing practice. I can’t wait for the first Nursology programs and for nursing researchers and advanced practioners being recognized as nursologists, in keeping with the conventions of so many other disciplines.

Our Name: Why Nursology? Why .net?

Why Nursology?

At least since the publication of Donaldson and Crowley’s (1978) seminal paper titled The Discipline of Nursing, nurses have been considered members of a discipline. A discipline (the term comes from the Latin disciplina) is a branch of instruction or  learning and is a way of organizing knowledge. Different disciplines are distinguished one from another by the subject matter of interest to their members. In what way does calling our discipline nursing convey a focus on knowledge development and testing, rather than, for example, breast feeding? Those of us involved in founding this web site agreed to use of the term, nursology, as the best way to convey this focus.

The term, nursology, comes from the Latin, Nutrix, [meaning] nurse; and from the Greek, Logos, [meaning] science (O’Toole, 2013, p. 1303). The first mention of nursology apparently is by Paterson, an American nurse, in her 1971 journal article. She coined the term, nursology, “to designate the study of nursing aimed towards the development of nursing theory” (p. 143). Roper (1976), a Scottish nurse, also referred to our discipline as nursology. She explained,

“It could be that nursing might develop as a discipline without using a word to describe its characteristic mode of thinking, but it will have to make the mode explicit and it will have to have the same meaning for nurses anywhere. Should the nursing profession require to use a word, I propose the word nursology for the study of nursing, so that the logical pattern of derivation of an adverb could be followed. (p. 227)

Fitzpatrick (2014) pointed out that use of the term, nursology, as the name for the discipline has not been supported by nurses, although “remnants of this minor movement appear today. Students in current doctoral-level nursing theory classes often express interest in the term as a way to legitimize the scientific enterprise and distinguish nursing science from other disciplines, particularly [other] health disciplines” (p. 5).

Nursology is not only a name for our discipline. It also is regarded and has been used as a research method and a practice method (Fawcett et al., 2015). The name for our schools and department and programs most properly, also is nursology. The members of our discipline—students, practicing nurses, researchers, educators, and administrators—are scholars of nursology, that is, nursologists. Noteworthy is that Josephine Paterson (1978) and Loretta Zderad (1978) held the formal title of nursologists while at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Northport, New York. As nursologists, we clearly no longer regard ourselves or can be regarded by others as handmaidens to physicians, who are members of the trade of medicine (medicine cannot be regarded as a discipline due to no evidence of distinctive knowledge).

Why .net?
.net was selected as the extension for the web site name to,  as Peggy Chinn pointed out, convey a network of nurses who are interested in learning about all things theoretical in nursology, including advances in the knowledge needed and used by nurses to guide their practice.

References

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

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.

Fitzpatrick, J. J. (2014). The discipline of nursing. In J. J. Fitzpatrick & G. McCarthy (Eds.), Theories guiding nursing research and practice: Making nursing knowledge development explicit (pp. 3-13). New York: Springer.

O’Toole, M. (Ed.) (2013). Mosby’s medical dictionary (9th ed.). St.Louis: Mosby.
Paterson, J. G. (1971). From a philosophy of clinical nursing to amethod of nursology. Nursing Research, 20, 143-146.

Paterson, J. G. (1978). The tortuous way toward nursing theory. In Theory development: What, why, how? (pp. 49-65). New York, NY: National League for Nursing. (Pub. No. 15-1708)

Roper, N. (1976). A model for nursing and nursology. Journal ofAdvanced Nursing, 1, 219-227.

Zderad, L. T. (1978). From here -and-now to theory: Reflections on“how.” In Theory development: What, why, how? (pp. 35-48).New York< NY: National League for Nursing. (Pub. No. 15-1708)