Humanistic Nursing

Contributor: Peggy Chinn
August 23, 2018

Authors – Josephine Paterson, RN, PhD and Loretta Zderad, RN, PhD

Year First Published – 1976
Major Concepts

Intersubjective transactional relationships
Lived dialogue


Grand Theory

Brief Description

The person is a unique being, extant in all nursing situations, who innately struggles—to know. Humanistic nursing is an existential experience of being and doing so that nurturance with another occurs. Fundamentally, nursing is a response to human need that can be described to build a humanistic nursing science. Humanistic nursing requires that the participants be aware of their uniqueness, as well as their commonality with others. Authenticity is required—an in-touchness with self that comes in part with experiencing. Humanistic nursing also presupposes responsible choices. The ability of an individual to make choices based on authentic awareness and knowledge of such choices is a concern of humanistic nursing and cultivates moreness. Also, a commitment to the value of humanistic nursing must be present.

A nurse with the foregoing attitudes and qualities can offer genuine presence to another. Humanistic nursing concerns the basic nursing act: the response of one human in need to another. At this level, nursing is related to the health-illness quality of the human condition: nurturance toward more being. – From Chinn, P. L., & Kramer, M. (2018). Knowledge Development in Nursing: Theory and Process (10th ed.). St Louis: Elsevier.)

Primary Sources

Paterson, J. G., & Zderad, L. T. (1976). Humanistic nursing. New York: Wiley (republished in 1987 by the National League for Nursing)


Josephine Paterson and Loretta Zderad

Dr. Josephine Paterson is originally from the east coast and Dr. Loretta Zderad is from the mid-west. They both were graduates of diploma schools and

Josephine Paterson (left), Loretta Zderad (right)

subsequently earned their bachelor’s degree in Nursing Education. Dr. Paterson did her graduate work at Johns Hopkins and Dr. Zderad did hers at Catholic University. In the mid-fifties they were both employed at The Catholic University and were assigned the task of working together to create a new program that would encompass the community health component and the psychiatric component of the graduate program. Subsequently they developed a collaboration and dialogue and friendship that have lasted for almost 40 years.
Josephine Paterson and Loretta Zderad retired in 1985 and moved South where they are currently enjoying life. Although they are no longer active, they are pleased at the on going interest in their theory. (from