Watson’s Theory of Human Caring

Jean Watson’s theory of human caring is about nursing and caring being side by side. According to Watson, a person can not completely heal from a disease/condition if only the disease is treated and the person is not(Watson, 1999). Meaning, nursing should focus on providing more care and connecting on a deeper level with their patient’s to promote faster and more effective healing.

Because of nursing shortages and increased demand on nursing, there is sometimes little time to none to sit down with a patient and have a heart to heart conversation. Watson’s theory, not only helps incorporate care back into nursing, but emphasizes it as a necessity to better allow the patient to heal(Watson, 1999). Dr. Jean Watson is an American nursing scholar. She earned her undergraduate degree in nursing her master’s degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing, and continued to earn her Ph.

D. in educational psychology and counseling from the University of Colorado(Sitzman, 2007). Watson proposed that professional nurses in all areas, have an awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings and share the common, intentional goal of attending to and supporting healing from both scientific and philosophical perspectives(Sitzman, 2007). This common goal is referred to as the caring-healing consciousness(Sitzman, 2007).

Watson’s theory took shape around 1970, as a reaction to wide gap she witnessed in respect of science of medicine, which was technology oriented and merely concentrating on diagnosis and cure of disease overlooking the art of healing recognizing humanity as a whole and scope of personal relation between the suffering person and health care providing person(“Jean Watson’s theory of Human Care”, 2010).

The major concepts of Watson’s theory are organized around ten carative factors that later evolved into the 10 clinical caring caritas processes that form the basis of the theory at the present time and can be applied in any nursing area(Sitzman, 2007). Practice love, kindness, and caring in nursing and be open to treating your patient’s mind and body(Sitzman, 2007). The theory speaks of focusing on the patients as a whole and getting in tune with their inner being.

An article in The Journal for Advanced Nursing Practice, conducted a study of patients with life threatening and terminal illnesses and Watson’s theory was used. The results showed nursing knowledge of palliative care improved significantly and families reported higher levels of satisfaction with the care their loved ones received. The staff reported that palliative care made a positive impact on patient and family outcomes. Conclusion: The structure, processes, and outcomes of care were positively impacted during the implementation of Watson’s theory(Mahler, 2010).

This occurred through activities such as direct consultation, educational initiatives, mentoring, and disseminating assessment and care planning tools and staff taking a whole interest in patients and families, both physically and spiritually(Mahler, 2010). Another study was held at a hospital, where this theory was adopted as the framework to support nursing. As the nurses became more familiar with the theory, deep caring was shown in their day to day interactions with their patients and their narratives(Norman & Rutledge, 2010).

Eighteen clinical narratives were included in this study. These were submitted by nurses across the hospital. The narratives ranged from a breast feeding encounter between and nurse and young mother to a dying mother of 12 whose daughter was not coping well(Norman & Rutledge, 2010). All outcomes showed that once Watson’s theory was used, the nurses took a more active and caring approach in the care they gave each patient. Another study conducted by Fraser Health Renal Program in 2004, incorporated Jean Watson’s theory in their everyday nursing practice with their renal patients.

Because many of the companies nurses were foreign trained, the company felt it necessary to apply the theory in day to day nursing. Human science nursing focuses on life and health as humanly experienced and human beings are viewed as the subjects of their own lives(Scattolon, 2008). Dr. Watson’s theory applied to my own caring moment is as follows: One morning, several years ago when I was an Oncology nurse, I entered a ladies room who had been diagnosed with throat/oral cancer. She had just recently had all of her teeth removed due to her disease and was undergoing radiation and chemo.

The radiation on her throat left her with an extremely raspy voice and on top of that she was no longer able to eat or drink orally and had to have a gastric tube placed. This lady was in her mid 40’s. I told her good morning and introduced myself as her nurse. I asked her how she was feeling and she smiled and said “good”. I could’ve went on about my busy day, but when I looked in her eyes, I could see nothing but fear, pain, and confusion. I pulled up a chair to her bedside, sat down and took her hand and asked her, how she was really feeling. She broke down and cried. She began talking about how alone, scared, and unattractive she felt.

We talked for an hour and she told me that up until now she didn’t know anyone really cared. Together, we came up with plans on how she would take one day at a time and get through this ordeal. We made arrangements for her to be able to obtain dentures, get counseling she needed, start an anti-depressant medication, etc. Several months after she was discharged, I was in Wal-Mart with my youngest daughter who was 11 at the time. As I was shopping I thought I heard someone calling my name. Each time I turned around to look, there was no one there. I went on about my shopping.

Again, I heard someone calling my name. I turned around to take a closer look and it was my former patient yelling my name. She was in a wheelchair and when I approached her she had a huge smile and hug for me. She looked at my daughter and said, “I want you to know what a wonderful lady your mom is and what a special nurse she is and how lucky you are to blessed with such a mother. ” If I had chosen to simply treat the patient based on signs and symptoms of illness, I would have never connected with her and developed a trusting relationship and I believe our interactions helped her in her healing process.

The carative factors that were used with the patient are development and sustaining helping, trusting authentic caring relationships(Sitzman, 2007). By taking the time to sit and speak with the patient and get to the core of what exactly was worrying her, she and I developed and trusting and caring relationship. The second carative factor is being present to and supportive of the expression of both positive and negative feelings arising in self and others with the understanding that all of these feelings represent wholeness(Sitzman, 2007).

This was achieved by allowing the patient to express the negative feelings she felt concerning her body and the worries she had because she felt she was unattractive to her husband. The third carative factor is creating and sustaining a healing environment at physical/readily observable levels and also at nonphysical, subtle energy, and consciousness levels. By allowing the patient to feel comfortable with me, it allowed the patient to open up more readily and do so with ease. Because I cared enough to ask her how she was really feeling and pulled up a chair to sit and talk to her, this let her know I was interested on all levels.

The fourth carative factor is administering human care essentials with an intentional caring consciousness meant to enable mind, body, spirit wholeness in all aspects of care; tending to spiritual evolution of both other and self. Whereby wholeness, beauty, comfort, dignity, and peace are enabled(Sitzman, 2007). By taking time out of my busy morning and paying attention to my patients facial expressions and her body language, it was easy to see something deeper was bothering her and not just her physical state. This lady needed someone to talk to and understand her and just treat her disease.

I have often heard people who have cancer say, “this disease does not define me. ” True, it does not, but too often we as nurses get so busy and wrapped up in the day to day documentation, medication passes, etc, that we do not take enough time to interact with our patients and talk to them and really bond with them. Sadly, we sometimes see them as the “lady who has lung cancer,” or the “man who has leukemia. ” In reality it is someone’s mom, dad, daughter, son and who has a family that loves them and their world matters.

Dr. Watson defines person as valued in and of him or herself to be cared for, respected, nurtured, understood and assisted. When we as nurses treat out patients wholly and not just treat the disease, we are treating them as a person according to Watson’s theory. Watson believes there are three parts to health such as a high level of overall physical, mental, and social functioning and general level of daily functioning, and absence of illness(“Jean Watson’s Theory of Nursing”, 2010). Environment is part of a caring attitude that must be given to make our patients feel comfortable(“Jean Watson’s Theory of Nursing”, 2010).

Nursing is being concerned with health, promoting wellness and one’s overall health of mind, body, and soul. The most important thing I learned when interacting with the patient was truly making her feel and know someone cared. Having a terminal illness is probably one of the scariest and loneliest moments in a person’s life. To have someone take the time and sit with you makes all the difference in the world. As a nurse, it reminded me of what I am here to do and what my profession really means.


  • http://currentnursing.com/nursing_theory/Watson.html

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