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Nursing Theories and Why They Are Important

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Nursing Theories and Why They’re Important

Nursing theories might have haunted some of us in school. But as it turns out, these pesky theories are actually important. Who knew, right? 

Nursing theories started with Florence Nightingale – a pioneer in nursing. We credit Florence with many of the nursing practices implemented and used today. But what are nursing theories exactly, and why are they so relevant? Well, if we were to first define nursing theory, it would be a structuring of ideas designed to view a phenomena systematically. 

Most of us probably know nursing theories as “the paper I really didn’t want to write”; though, they do serve an important purpose – we promise! Essentially, nursing theories are the foundation that nurses practice on; they are essential for patient care, and they allow nurses to make the decisions it takes to help their patients effectively.


There are four main concepts to nursing theories:

1. Person

This is the recipient to nursing care, whether it be an individual or a community.

2. Environment

The environment is all internal and external factors that affect the patient, whether they are good or bad. An example of an environment could be family or a healthcare setting.

3. Health

This is the degree of wellness the recipient of nursing receives.

4. Nursing

Nursing is the skills, attributes, characteristics and actions of the nurse who is providing the care.

Nursing theories can also be categorized into three levels:

1. Grand Nursing Theories

These are the theories based on broad abstract ideas that typically come from the theorists own experience; they provide a general framework.

2. Mid-Range Nursing Theories

The mid-range nursing theories are more specific and deal with areas that are more pinpointed than the generalized ideas of grand nursing theory; they generally come from practice and research.

3. Nursing Practice Theories

These are theories that are narrowed all the way down to a specific patient population. The nursing practice theories are those most widely used at the patient’s bedside.

But how do we use nursing theories in practice?

Everyday, you probably use nursing theories more than you realize. Many of the protocols, rules and practices that your unit has in place are actually based on a nursing theory; this is also sometimes called “evidence based practice”.

Bottom line – using nursing theory keeps our patients as safe as possible while providing them with excellent care.

Nursing Theories and Why They are so important

There you have it. A quick summary on nursing theories, the different types and how they are used.

What are your thoughts on nursing theories? Join the conversation on Facebook or drop a comment below. 

Katelyn Johnson

Katelyn Johnson


Katelyn has a Master’s in Healthcare Administration and five years of clinical experience. She has made the shift to full-time freelance writing and enjoys covering topics on nursing careers, lifestyle, and community. Her goal is to help start a conversation and spread awareness around the many ups and downs of the healthcare field.


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