Nurse Theories Purpose and Scope – Watson’s Caring Theory

Discussion Question/Prompt

Please read the following introduction and complete the following steps for your initial discussion post:

There are a number of methods for classifying theory in nursing.  These include classification based on range/scope or abstractness (metatheory, grand, middle-range, and practice) and type or purpose of the theory (descriptive, explanatory, predictive, and prescriptive).

For this week’s discussion post, address the following:

Identify one theory that relate to your area of practice.

In 1978, Madeline Leininger, Jean Watson, and a group of doctoral students participated in a conference where they presented information on the relationship between caring and nursing (Turkel, Watson & Giovannoni, 2018). The International Association for Human Caring (IAHC) was birthed in 1988; the members of this group realized that “nursing theories frame and advance disciplinary knowledge and caring theories, as well as, contain underlying ontological, philosophical, and epistemological assumptions” about human caring (Turkel et al., 2018). One theory that caring scholars and the IAHC members focused on was “caring as the essence of nursing and the unifying foundational core of the discipline and profession” (Turkel et al., 2018). Dr. Jean Watson developed the theory “caring science or the science of caring.” Dr. Jean Watson founded the Watson Caring Science Institute (WCSI) twelve years ago. As new caring theories and research on the caring science developed, nurses looked to the caring theory as the “return to the values of the nursing profession” (Turkel et al., 2018). Although many scholars have defined caring science, Watson is the only scholar with an evolution of the science of caring and caring science (Turkel et al., 2018). I believe that this theory not only relates to myself, but to other nurses as well, because caring and compassion are the foundations of nursing and the reasons behind our nursing practice.

Discuss the type of the selected theory according to scope and purpose.

Watson’s human caring science theory is a grand theory because it “attempts to explain a broad area within the nursing discipline – caring – and it also incorporates countless other theories” (McEwen & Willis, 2019). This theory is like roots that sprout different types of trees. The human science caring theory does not just focus on one theory in particular, it explores the ethics of belonging and the life forces underlying all of humanity (Turkel et al., 2018).

Watson (2012) defined human, health, and nursing, which are three of the four metaparadigm concepts. Her definition of human is as follow, “a unique, valued and precious person . . . to be cared for, respected, nurtured, understood, and assisted” (Watson, 2012). Watson takes a holistic approach in describing the human being, she recognizes that humans have needs which must be addressed by nurses and other people in general. Watson (2012), describes her work as a descriptive theory of caring. Her work is descriptive because it describes the major concept of caring by observation (McEwen & Willis, 2019).

Provide an example of how the selected theory can be applied to your area of practice.  The example should include core elements of the theory and demonstrate its practical application.

The core element of Watson’s theory is “love as the starting point for practicing caring” (Watson, 2002). She states, we must “cultivate loving kindness and equanimity with self and others… by recognizing love as the highest level of consciousness and the greater energetic source of all healing” (Watson, 2008). Love for ourselves, our family and others should drive our nursing practice. While caring for our patients, we should put ourselves in their shoes and think, “how would I want to be treated by my nurse if I were in their situation”? Sometimes, nurses can get so caught up in actual tasks and responsibilities that we forget the love and compassion that is the core foundation of nursing. If a patient is crying after receiving a poor prognosis, we could stop what we are doing, actively listen, use therapeutic touch, and show by our actions that the patient is important. Nurses could also verbally express to patients that we love them, and it is our job to provide the best care that we can to them. We should want our patients to have a smile on their faces by the end of our shifts.


McEwen, M. & Wills, E. (2019). Theoretical basis for nursing (5th). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 9781496351203

Turkel, M. C., Watson, J., & Giovannoni, J. (2018). Caring Science or Science of Caring. Nursing Science Quarterly, 31(1), 66 -71.

Watson, J. (2002). Love and caring: Ethics of face and hand. Nursing Administrative Quarterly, 27(2), 197-202. 

Watson, J. (2008). Nursing: The philosophy and science of caring (rev. ed.). Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 

Watson, J. (2012). Human caring science: A theory of nursing (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.