Nursing theory must offer the standards that support practice and assist in creating additional nursing knowledge (Colley, 2003). There exist continuing contentions on nursing theory and what comprises nursing knowledge, but no clear conclusions have been made. Nurses become confused due to the need for commonalities in the professional literature, forcing many to consider nursing theory as irrelevant to professional practice (Colley, 2003). For many years, the relationship between theory and practice has always spurred debate within the nursing field.
Carper’s four fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing such as empirical, ethical, personal, and aesthetic—have been a pillar to nursing education and practice. A different mode of inquiry is required to develop knowledge about and evidence for each pattern. And as time passed, numerous studies have been made to further improve this nursing theoretical legacy. The present paper seeks to discuss nursing theory and its relation to practice. In the second section, an assessment of a grand theory and its mid-range theories will be presented.
In the third section, a critique of Carper’s Patterns of Knowing will be made, particularly the limitations and suggested additions to this theory. The summary and conclusions will be presented last. 1. Theory in Nursing Wilkerson (2005) says that theory is an internally consistent set of relational statements—such as concepts, definitions and propositions—that provide an organized perspective on an experience. A theory facilitates description, elaboration, prediction and control (Wilkerson, 2005).
It is a conceptual overview that provides an organized rationalization on the correlations in an experience. Through an explicit description of nursing, theory facilitates in determining what should be the basic of practice. Furthermore, since caring—as the basic component of nursing—is immeasurable, theory provides the means to assess and explain the nursing roles (Colley, 2003). Nursing theories present nurses an agenda to organize their activities in relation to appropriate questions to ask, the phenomenon to observe, the matter to concentrate on and the concern to think about (Wilkerson, 2005).
A nursing theory refers to the body of knowledge used for the nursing practice. A grand theory is a conceptual structure that describes general nursing practice perspectives of outcome, interaction, humanistic and needs (Wilkerson, 2005). A middle-range theory is somewhat abstract and possesses a small number of variables which can be directly tested, making them very useful in nursing practice and research. Hickman (2002) says that midrange theories deal only with a specific part of the nurse’s overall concerns, not the totality of the nursing field.