Nursing theory and philosophy is not a highly desired course in nursing studies. Most nursing students, regardless of program of study, are either terrified or annoyed at the thought of having to study nursing theory and philosophy. Likewise, I doubt that many nurses (myself included) spend a lot of time brushing up on nursing theories and philosophies. It is likely because we fail to understand how a nursing philosophy is applicable to daily nursing activities. It is common to hear in a knowledge and skill-based profession like nursing, “how is studying philosophy going to help me in the future?” The question is not completely unwarranted – with essentially only 2 years of formal academic study, specifically devoted to nursing knowledge and skill, it would seem that every bit of that time should be devoted to prepare future nurses to succeed in the increasingly complex environment of healthcare. However, the nursing practice is both knowledge and art, skill and heart, scientific and philosophic.
We engage in philosophical thinking about nursing practice all the time, often times without realizing it. Any time you have considered how and why you care for patients, what nursing means to you, or the intricate parts of our practice, you are thinking philosophically. The core of your nursing philosophy is the values, beliefs, and ethics that lead you to enter nursing, inspired you to persevere through rigorous examination of knowledge and skill, and motivates you to continue caring for patients, day after day, especially in times of fear and uncertainty.
The Professional Nursing Councils (Inpatient and Ambulatory) recently engaged in an activity where members were asked to submit their 3 top nursing values. What resulted was a beautiful representation of the collective values of UAMS nurses. The larger the word, the more times it was submitted. It is not an exhaustive list, but a foundation of what is fundamentally important to nurses at UAMS. We will use these results to begin examining the UAMS Nursing Philosophy, Professional Practice Model and Care Delivery System.
Have you given thought to your personal values and nursing philosophy? Development of a personal nursing philosophy should not be a mechanical, clunky process; rather it is simply the expression of personal feelings, beliefs and values that are part of your character and describes how you will impact your patients and the community. When constantly faced with challenging work conditions, caring for increasingly sick and complex patients, and a global pandemic, having a personal nursing philosophy can be encouraging and empowering as you recall why you became a nurse, why you persevere through times of difficulty, and the impact you desire to have for patients.
I encourage you to give your personal nursing philosophy some thought and to even write it down and keep it close. Refer back to it when things get hard and you feel like giving up. Visit the resources below to get started. I would love to be encouraged by your nursing philosophy. If you wouldn’t mind sharing, please send to CenterforNursingExcellence@uams.edu.
Mass Medical Staffing, “How A Personal Philosophy of Nursing Can Help Your Career,” March 15, 2018: https://www.masmedicalstaffing.com/2018/03/15/personal-philosophy-of-nursing/.
Meehan, T.C. (2017). Philosophy. Careful Nursing. https://www.carefulnursing.ie/go/overview/philosophy