The Theory of Nursing As Caring

Contributors: Anne Boykin and Savina O. Schoenhofer
December 15, 2019
Download PDF of “Nursing As Caring:  A Model for Transforming Practice”
(shared by permission)

Authors – Anne Boykin, PhD, RN and Savina O. Schoenhofer, PhD, RN

First published -1993
Major Concepts
  • Focus of nursing
  • Nursing Situation
  • Direct Invitation
  • Caring Between
  • Calls for Caring
  • Nursing Responses of Caring
  • Dance of Caring Persons
  • Dance of Living Caring

Nursing As Caring is a general theory of nursing, deliberately broad enough in scope to understand any and all instances of nursing.

Brief Description

The focus of nursing is nurturing persons living caring and growing in caring. As an expression of nursing, caring is the intentional and authentic presence of the nurse with another person who is recognized as living caring and growing in caring. A nursing situation is a shared lived experience in which the caring between nurse and nursed enhances personhood. The nurse intentionally enters a nursing situation with the purpose of coming to know the person as caring, offering a direct invitation to the nursed to express what matters most in the moment, hearing calls for caring, and responding with caring nurturance created in the context of the nursing situation.

The fullness of nursing as a shared relationship emerges in the caring between. In coming to know self and others as caring persons, persons living caring uniquely and growing in caring, the nurse integrates personal, ethical, sociopolitical, empirical and aesthetic knowing. The Dance of Caring Persons is a caring-centered, person-focused relational model that enables alternating rhythm and honors the richness of context, guiding institutional structures and processes to assure respect for the contributions of all involved in the nursing situation. The Dance of Living Caring extends those values in nursing situations involving machines endowed with advanced artificial intelligence as partners in caring. The theory of Nursing As Caring is in use as a guiding nursing framework in practice, research, education and leadership. (for more information see

The Dance of Caring Persons – source: Boykin, A., & Schoenhofer, S. O. (2001). Nursing As Caring: A Model for Transforming Practice, p. 37 (used by permission)

The Dance of Living Caring
source: Anne Boykin and Savina O. Schoenhofer (Used by permission)

Primary Sources

Nursing as Caring Website –

Boykin, A., & Schoenhofer, S. O. (l993). Nursing As Caring: A model for transforming practice. New York: NLN Publications.

Boykin, A., & Schoenhofer, S. O. (2001). Nursing As Caring: A model for transforming practice. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Boykin, A., & Schoenhofer, S. O. (2005). Nursing As Caring: A model for transforming practice. [Japanese Language Translation by Toshiko Tada, Ph.D.]. Tokushima University Press. ISBN4-86186-218-3

Application sources

Boykin, A., Schoenhofer, S. O., & Valentine, K. L. (2013). Health care system transformation for nursing and health care leaders: Implementing a culture of caring. New York: Springer Pub. Co.

Boykin, A., Schoenhofer, S. O., Bulfin, S., Baldwin, J., & McCarthy, D. (2005). Living caring in practice: The transformative power of the theory of nursing as caring. International Journal for Human Caring, 9(3), 15-19.

Boykin, A., Schoenhofer, S. O., Smith, N., St. Jean, J., & Aleman, D. (2003). Transforming practice using a caring-based nursing model. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 27,223-30.

Dyess, S., & Boykin, A. ( 2013). Hearing the voice of nurses in caring theory-based practice: A process of practice environment transformation linked to caring theory. Nursing Science Quarterly, 26, 167-173.

Dyess, S., Boykin, A., & Rigg, C. (2010). Integrating caring theory with nursing education and practice: Connecting with what matters. Journal of Nursing Administration, 40, 498-503.

Pross, E., Boykin, A., Hilton, N., & Gabuat, J. (2010). A study of knowing nurses as caring. Holistic Nursing Practice, 24, 142-147.

Pross, E., Hilton, N., & Boykin, A. (2011). The “Dance of Caring Persons”. Nursing
Management, 42(10), 25-30.

Schoenhofer, S. O. (2001). A framework for caring in a technologically dependent nursing practice environment. In R.C. Locsin, Advancing technology, caring and nursing. Westport, CT: Auburn House, a Subsidiary of Greenwood Publishing, pp. 3-11.

Schoenhofer, S. O., Van Wynsberghe, A., & Boykin, A. (2019). Engaging robots as nursing partners in caring: Nursing As Caring meets Care-Centered Value-Sensitive Design. International Journal for Human Caring, 23, 157-167.

White, D. E., & Grason, S. (2019). Creating a culture of care in nursing education. International Journal of Nursing and Health Care Research, 10, 1122. DOI: 10.29011/2688-9501.101122

About the Authors

Anne Boykin

Anne Boykin grew up in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, the eldest of six children. She began her career in nursing in 1966, graduating from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She received her master’s degree from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and her doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Boykin is married to Steve Staudenmeyer, and they have four children. Anne Boykin retired in 2011 and is Professor Emeritus of the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University. She has relocated to Asheville, North Carolina, where she enjoys being surrounded by mountains and lakes.

Dr. Boykin is currently the Director of the Anne Boykin Institute for the Advancement of Caring in Nursing of the FAU College of Nursing. Boykin has a longstanding commitment to the advancement of knowledge in the discipline, especially regarding the phenomenon of caring. Positions she has held in the International Association for Human Caring include president elect (1990 to 1993), president (1993 to 1996), and member of the nominating committee (1997 to 1999). As immediate past president, she served as coeditor of the journal, International Association for Human Caring, from 1996 to 1999.

Boykin’s scholarly work is centered on caring as the grounding for nursing. This is evidenced in her book (coauthored with Schoenhofer), Nursing as Caring: A Model for Transforming Practice (1993, 2001), and her book, Living a Caring-Based Program (1994). The latter book illustrates how caring grounds the development of a nursing program by creating the environment for study through evaluation. In addition to these books, Dr. Boykin is editor of Power, Politics and Public Policy: A Matter of Caring (1995) and coeditor (along with Gaut) of Caring as Healing: Renewal Through Hope (1994). She has written numerous book chapters and articles and serves as a consultant locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally on the topic of caring.

Savina O. Schoenhofer

Savina Schoenhofer was born the second child and eldest daughter in a family of nine children and spent her formative years on the family cattle ranch in Kansas. She is named for her maternal grandfather, who was a classical musician in Kansas City, Missouri. She has a daughter, Carrie, and a granddaughter, Emma.

During the 1960s, Schoenhofer spent 3 years in the Amazon region of Brazil, working as a volunteer in community development. Her initial Nursing degree, concurrently with a Psychology degree, was completed at Wichita State University, where she also earned graduate degrees in nursing and counseling. She completed a PhD in educational foundations and administration at Kansas State University in 1983. In 1990, Schoenhofer co-founded Nightingale Songs, an early venue for communicating the beauty of nursing in poetry and prose. An early study made it apparent to Schoenhofer that caring was the nursing service that patients overwhelmingly recognized. In addition to her work on caring, including co-authorship with Boykin of Nursing As Caring: A Model for Transforming Practice (1993, 2001), Schoenhofer has written numerous articles on topics including nursing values, primary care, nursing education, support, touch, and mentoring.

Schoenhofer’s career in nursing has been influenced significantly by three colleagues: Lt. Col. Ann Ashjian (Ret.), whose community nursing practice in Brazil presented an inspiring model of nursing; Marilyn E. Parker, PhD, a faculty colleague who mentored her in the idea of nursing as a discipline, the academic role of higher education, and the world of nursing theories and theorists; and Anne Boykin, PhD, who introduced her to caring as a substantive field of study in nursing.

Dr. Schoenhofer retired from active involvement in nursing education in 2014, though she continues to collaborate in research and publication in nursing. Dr. Schoenhofer is committed to the study of nursing as caring. She is on the Board of the Anne Boykin Institute for the Advancement of Caring in Nursing, serving as co-coordinator of its 2018 Summer Academy and co-editor of a special issue of the International Journal for Human Caring on robots and caring in nursing.