nursing theories

Nursing Theories and theorists in Assignments

You will be required to write a paper on nursing theories as a nursing student. You might be asked to write an essay about a particular nursing theories or an essay on a particular nurse theorist. You might be assigned a capstone project by your professor or instructor that requires you to choose a nursing theory or author as part of the recommendation for change.

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Scroll down to find out more about the theories and theorists in nursing literature.

What are Nursing Theories?

Nursing theories are knowledge-based concepts designed to describe the practice of nursing. Nursing theories are essential in distinguishing nursing from other medical disciplines like medicine. Nursing theories also contain concepts and purposes that help guide nursing practice to specific standards.

Nursing is a discipline that is based on concepts and frameworks. It is a complex field that includes many important concepts in nursing science. Nursing knowledge is the foundation that nurses use to understand, classify, and master concepts and theories related to nursing. The science of nursing is generally linked to nursing theories, and nursing practice.

What is nursing theory?

The modern world has many uses for nursing theories. Nursing theory is essential in providing guidance, education, practice, research direction, and knowledge development. An historical analysis of nursing shows that it was not recognized at first as a discipline or profession. Nursing theory was developed and it allowed the discipline to be classified as a profession and an academic discipline, rather than a task-oriented occupation. The medical profession controlled and directed the initial training and practice of nurses. Let’s look at some of the uses and impacts of nursing theories on practice.

  • Nursing theories aid in the recognition and description of elements of nursing practice.
  • Nursing theories allow nurses to better understand their roles in the healthcare system by understanding nursing definition.
  • Nursing theories are scientific reasons for nursing interventions that are not appropriate to nursing care situations.
  • Nursing theories promote knowledge development by providing comprehensive guidance and direction in research, practice, education, and education.
  • The most important thing about nursing theories is their ability to predict, define, and demonstrate many different types of nursing phenomena.
  • Nursing theories allow nurses to reflect upon the assumptions and questions of nursing values. This is important in nursing definition and advancement of nursing knowledge.
  • Nursing theory is recognized as a critical component in protecting professional boundaries and limits.
  • As one of the roles in nursing theories, the provision of nurses’ identities allows patients, managers, and healthcare professionals to gain knowledge and understand the best contribution nurses can make to healthcare delivery.
  • The provision of nursing theory is crucial for the development of knowledge, practice foundation and future scope of nursing.

Nursing Theories: What are they?

Nursing theory’s primary purpose is to improve nursing practice by establishing positive measures that can be used to improve patients’ health and quality of life. Nursing theories can also be used to define and control nursing practice and provide a basis for nursing decision-making. Nursing has been recognized as an academic, professional, research, and professional discipline through the development of nursing theories.

Academic Discipline

The incorporation of structured concepts, models, or frameworks of nursing theories into nursing programs is a key element in the development of nursing programs. These theories are a major part of the overall development of the nursing curriculum.

Nursing theories provide unique language, course descriptions and clinical performance protocols. The theories play an integral role in educating the learner about the nursing profession and its importance as an academic discipline.

Therefore, it is important to discuss nursing theories in order to improve professions’ status.

In professional practice

Clinical practice is the creation of knowledge and research questions based on nursing theories. The clinical setting’s primary contribution is to question, think, and reflect on the nursing roles.

Because nursing practice and nurses are subordinated to institutional forces and traditions, any framework that encourages nurses to think, question and reflect about their work is an invaluable service.


The theory development component of the research process is what applies the theoretical frameworks for research study by providing guidance and perspective.

The theory can also be used to guide research by testing and establishing the desired phenomena. The improvement of nursing profession’s ability to fulfill societal responsibilities and obligations requires a reciprocal, cyclical connection between theory, research, and practice.

This is crucial in bridging the perception gap between theory and practice and embracing theory-guided practices.

What are Nursing Metaparadigms (or nursing metaparadigms)?

The nursing metaparadigm is a collection of ideas or theories that describe the structure of nursing and the functions of nursing as a discipline. The four main concepts of nursing paradigms are the patient, the patient’s wellbeing and health, the environment and the roles of nurses. The major concepts are person, health and environment. These concepts are essential to nursing theories because they are interrelated. Let’s take a look at each nursing paradigm.


A person is a part of the nursing paradigm. It refers to the person or client who receives nursing care. This can include patients, families, communities, individuals, and groups.


The client’s sense of health can be described as their level of well-being and wellness. The meaning of health varies depending on who is being treated, the healthcare provider and the clinical setting.


The client’s environment is their external and internal environment. The environment can include both positive and negative conditions that impact the patient’s physical environment, family, friends, and the setting in which they receive their health care.


Nursing is an integral part of the nursing paradigm. Nurses’ actions and characteristics are crucial in the care provision integration with clients.

Many nursing scholars have created several definitions of nursing. However, they haven’t come up with the exact definition. The ultimate goal of nursing theories is to improve patient care.

Each of the four concepts of the nursing metaphor are different and can be used in different types of nursing theories. Examining the definitions of nurse theorists reveals that each definition is different in terms of nursing experience and orientation. It can also be affected by various factors influenced from the theorist’s point of view.

Although the person is the main focus, the theory will provide a unique view of a particular theory. The nursing paradigm is generally defined by different theorists who have their own views and clearly articulate their differences.

Components of Nursing Theories

Theory is defined by its constituents, such as phenomena, concepts, relational statements and assumptions. The theory’s validity can also be justified by the explanation of their relationship.


This term describes a response or idea to an occurrence, process or situation. It can be either permanent or temporary, depending on its intensity and duration. The description of nursing phenomena is limited by the use of nursing theories.


Interrelated concepts are used to describe nursing theories. Concepts are used to describe or label a phenomenon. Concepts are words and phrases that describe, define and establish boundaries and structures for a phenomenon. There are two types of concepts: concrete and abstract. Concrete concepts can be thought of as mental creations that are not limited to a particular place or time. Concrete concepts, on the other hand are directly experienced and are associated with a specific place or time.

Relational Statements

Rational statements are the chains that link concepts. They are used to describe the connection between multiple concepts.


Definitions can be used to explain the meanings of theories. There are two types of definitions: theoretical and operational. Theoretical definitions are a description of a concept that is based on theorists’ understanding. Operational definitions describe the measurement levels of concepts.


Assumptions can be described as facts that are acceptable and are not based on beliefs or values. They are also considered to be true. These statements provide information about the purpose, theory structure and features of concepts, relationships, as well as definitions.

Nursing Theories Classification

There are many ways to categorize nursing theories. There are many ways to categorize nursing theories.

Goal orientation

According to their purpose, theories can be divided into groups. This classification system separated theories into descriptive and prescriptive.

Prescriptive Theories

Prescriptive theories are used to control practice changes, predict outcomes, and describe nursing interventions. There are also propositions that refer to transformations. Prescriptive theories are well-known for anticipating the outcomes of nursing interventions.

Descriptive Theories

These are the first steps in developing theory. These theories describe and identify the components and properties of phenomena. Because they are not action-oriented, descriptive theories cannot create or transform circumstances. There are two types of descriptive theories: explanatory theories, and facto-isolating theories.

Explanatory theory

The explanatory theories, as the name implies, explain and describe the characteristics of relationships between phenomena.

The Factor-Isolating Theory

Nursing theories can be described as factor-isolating theory because they describe the features and dimensions of phenomena. They can also be called category-formulating or labeling theory.


Abstraction divides theories into three categories: practice-level theory, middle-range theory and grand theory.

Theory-Based Practice

Practice-level theories are nursing theories that address specific situations and are focused on a limited number of patients for a given time. These theories provide frameworks for nursing interventions and the outcomes or impacts of nursing practice.

The practice-level theories have a greater impact on nursing practice than abstract theories. Concepts derived from grand theories or middle-range theories can be connected to practice-level theories.

The Middle-Range Theory

The scope of middle-range theories is limited and the current propositions and concepts are at lower abstraction levels. They are responsible for the nursing-specific phenomena.

Many middle-range theories can be derived from grand theories. However, their conception is suggested to be flexible from research and nursing practice.

Because it is simple to test, this level of theory can be used at the expense grand theory.

Grand theories

Grand theories can be described as broad, abstract and comp-ex. This makes it necessary to further research in order to simplify. These theories don’t explain specific nursing interventions, but rather provide general guidelines and ideas for nursing.

The grand nursing theory describes the elements of the nursing paradigm, such as the person-environment and health.

Grand nursing theorists make their theories about their own time and personal experiences. This is one reason why they have so many variations.

Other Forms of Nursing Theory Classification

Alligood Classification Format

Raile Alligood’s book, Nursing Theories and Their Work presents a detailed understanding of her research into nursing theory. These groups include nursing-conceptual models and nursing philosophy. They also include grand theories and nursing theories.

  • Conceptual models of nursing.
  • Nursing philosophy. These theories are an abstract group of theories that help to explain nursing phenomena using reasoning, logic presentation and analysis. This group includes Nightingale and Benner as well as Watson and Ray.
  • Middle-range theories. Alligood called the middle-range theory short. It addresses a specific nursing practice by adhering to the theory or derivative model. Theorists like Reed, Barker and Mercer are responsible for some of the middle-range theories.
  • Grand-nursing theories. These theories are the derivatives from conceptual models, grand theories, or nursing philosophy. Alligood said that the grand-nursing theory was a result of the work of Rogers, King and Levine.

Meleis Classification Format

Theoretical Nursing Development and Progress by Afaf Ibrahim Meleis organized fundamental theories and models of nursing into the following areas: interaction theories, outcome theories, and needs theory. The primary theories that Meleis describes are the philosophical underpinnings of these categories.

  • Outcome theories. These theories focus on the nurse as the primary provider of patient care. By applying knowledge of human behavior and physiological systems, the nurse directs and controls patients. This group includes the nursing theories of Levine and Johnson as well as Roy.
  • Interaction Theory. Interaction theories focus on the maintenance and development of healthy relationships between patients and nurses. These theories focus on the impact of nursing on patients and how interactions with people, situations and the environment can influence them. This group includes several theories such as Orlando, Travelbee, and King.
  • Needs-Based theories. A group of nurses developed the concept order for nursing care. The need-based theory is based on helping individuals meet their mental and physical goals. This category includes theories like Henderson, Abdella, and Orem. The needs-based theory is criticized for being too dependent on the medical model and the placement of patients in a privileged position.

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