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What are the Different Types of Nursing Theories?

By Karize Uy
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Nursing theories differ according to who the proponent is. They also vary in using different theoretical frameworks and applying different purposes and goals. Some theories come in the form of nursing models, which are used by nurses to perform their care taking responsibilities and tasks.

One of the very first nursing theories was the Interpersonal Theory in 1952. Developed by the “mother of psychiatric nursing,” Hildegard Peplau, the theory’s goal is to build constant communication and interaction between the patient and the nurse. A patient is defined as an individual who attempts to lessen his anxieties. Nurses who develop a relationship with their patients can help alleviate their anxieties by catering to their needs and offering their companionship. Interaction can also make it easier for the nurse to understand how to help the patient in an effective manner.

In 1960, Faye Abdellah proposed a model called “21 Nursing Problems.” One of the nursing theories that created a model, 21 Nursing Problems is used as a guide for nurses to learn how to provide the best nurturing and treatment to a patient. By identifying which of the 21 problems specifically describes the patient, the nurse becomes a problem-solver whose goal is to meet the patient’s needs. Nurses do not just try to treat the illness, but also look after the patient as a whole. A patient, then, becomes “healthy” when all his needs are met and there is no sign of present or developing sicknesses.

One of the nursing theories that discussed the concept of “total wellness” was the Systems Theory. Betty Neuman was the proponent of this theory back in 1972. The theory asserts that a human being is a functioning system as a whole, and all his “parts” are interconnected; one affects the other. To attain balance and wellness, the theory’s main goal is the reduction of stress. Through timely interventions, a nurse can help a patient learn how to resist, adapt, and defend himself from any stress factors.

One of the major responsibilities of a nurse is to “care,” around which Jean Watson built her theory, the “Theory of Caring” in 1979. Instead of just an emotion-driven action, “caring” was also studied as both a philosophy and science, with Watson combining elements of Western and Eastern medicine and practices. Watson saw “caring” as an action that can be specifically defined, which led to her “10 Carative Factors. Overall, it is the nurse’s task to encourage patients to have a healthy lifestyle, assist them in bringing back their health, and prevent future sicknesses from recurring. Most, if not all, nursing theories primarily focus on the patient and how nurses, through different methods, can help them.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Laotionne — On Nov 17, 2014

When I go to the doctor, I want a nurse who is friendly. Nothing is worse than being sick and then having depressing or mean people examining you and caring for you.

By Animandel — On Nov 16, 2014

It is not practical to think that a nurse can totally invest in the lives of every patient she sees -- unless she is a private nurse and has only a few patients. And even private nurses need to keep a certain amount of emotional distance between themselves and the patients they work with.

Regardless of which nursing theory you subscribe to, you should understand that it is emotionally exhausting and physically unhealthy for a nurse to try to totally connect with her patients. There has to be some distance in order for a nurse to function and do her job.

By Feryll — On Nov 15, 2014

I have a neighbor who is a nurse, and she has worked in a variety of nursing jobs. She worked in a doctor's office for several years, which she says she really enjoyed very much. One of the aspects of working in the doctor's office that appealed to her was the chance to get to know the patients. When she had worked in a large hospital, she was unable to learn as much about her patients and their personal lives.

Anyway, while working at the doctor's office, she was offered another job. This job was a position in a maximum security prison. For obvious reasons, she was slightly afraid to take the new job, but the salary was much more than she was earning at the doctor's office, so she decided to accept the job in the prison.

As it turns out, she found an unexpected benefit of working in the prison. Previously, she had always tried to connect with her patients and learn about their lives beyond their health issues. This is discouraged in the prison, so she is able to be more professional and not so emotionally involved with the patients, which has proved to be a welcomed change for her.

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