Aesthetic Knowing

Contributors: Deborah Lindell and Peggy Chinn
Updated October 27, 2022

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Aesthetic knowing in nursing is a way of knowing realities that are not empirically observable – the deep meanings in a situation. As nurses grasp these meanings, they can draw on their inner, creative resources to respond to the situation in ways that move the situation from what is, to what is possible. Aesthetic knowing is called forth in the face of human experiences that are common for to all human experience such as grief, joy, anxiety, fear, love. Even though these experiences are common, they are expressed in ways that are unique to each and every individual experience. People recognize common expressions of such experiences as anxiety, pain, fear, or love. But each person’s experience is unique.

Aesthetic knowing in nursing is expressed in practice in transformative acts that reveal the meaning and the significance of the experience (Chinn, P. L.; Kramer, M. & Sitzman, Kathleen, 2022). Aesthetic knowing addresses the questions:

  • What does this mean? (finding the meaning of the experience to the person who is experiencing it)
  • How is this significant? (interpreting the depth and importance of the experience)

In practice the nurse’s way of being and relating in a situation and the ways of speaking and acting, form a work of art that responds to the meaning of the situation. In so doing, the nurse facilitates the capacity of the individual, family or community to move through their health experience in ways that heal, comfort and transform.

Aesthetic experiences in nursing can also be represented by works of art that convey the meanings of those experiences to the discipline, and to the public at large. In this section, we feature works of art by nurses, each of which reflect unique meanings and significance of human health experiences, and nursing care in the context of these experiences.

The patterns of knowing, while identified as distinct processes, are interdependent. This is particularly so with the personal and aesthetic patterns of knowing.


Lucinda Canty: Poetry and Visual Art

Paulina Van: Poetry

Richard Cowling: Visual Art

Sources blogs related to aesthetics

Boykin, A., Parker, M.E., & Schoenhofer, S.O. (1994). Aesthetic knowing grounded in an explicit conception of nursing. Nursing Science Quarterly, 7, 158-161.

Chinn, Peggy L., Kramer, Maeona K., & Sitzman, Kathleen. (2022). Knowledge Development in Nursing: Theory and Process (11th ed.). Elsevier.

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Hampton, D.C. (1994). Expertise: The true essence of nursing artAdvances in Nursing Science, 17(1), 15-24. 

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Wikström, B.M. (2002). Nurses’ strategies when providing for patients’ aesthetic needs: Personal experiences of aesthetic means of expressionClinical Nursing Research, 11, 22-33.