Theories in Nursing
ITT Technical Institute
July 1, 2014
Nursing theories provide the foundations of nursing practice, to help to generate further knowledge and indicate in which direction nursing should develop in the future. The process of deciphering knowledge we need to know and what know is defined as theory. The benefits of a comprehensive knowledge of nursing theory includes enhanced health care for patients, improved proficiency status for nurses, better interpersonal relationships between nursing staff, and strive to move forward in developing a more diverse method of health care. Nursing will continue to endeavor to create a distinctive knowledge base. Although there are many theories related to the nursing profession, I will give examples of three in this paper.
The deontology theory is morals that are characterized by a focus upon adherence to independent moral rules or duties. To make the correct moral choices, we have to understand what our moral duties are and what correct rules exist to regulate those duties. This means that a person will follow his or her obligations to another individual or society, because upholding one’s duty is what is considered ethically correct. Individuals who follow this theory will produce consistent decisions because they will be based on the individual’s duties. The focus is placed on the value of individual rather than the outcome of any action and rules. For example, a nurse has the duty (deontological obligation) to safeguard the well-being of all her patients. But if she came upon two patients in need of CPR, her decision to administer it first to the 23-year old mother instead of the 92-year old man with end stage renal disease would be influenced by the patients' relative value to society. This theory requires absolute adherence to these obligations and acting from duty is viewed as acting ethically. If it is a nurses’ duty to protect the patient, deontology requires that the nurse has a binding moral to do this in all circumstances (www.doingethics.com/reasoning.health.htm). This theory can also hinder ones performance in the nursing profession; by applying a strictly deontological approach to healthcare can lead to conflicts of interest between equally entitled individuals, which can be difficult or even seemingly impossible to resolve.
The principlism theory is commonly used in the healthcare field. Its emphasis four key ethical principles (autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice) which most theories share and blends with practical wisdom. The goal is to bring together the best elements that are comparable with most societal, individual and religious belief systems. This theory enables healthcare professionals, patients and significant others, to place value or added weight on a particular principle to find a balance and rationale for decision making. For example, a nurse might consider that he/she is morally required to provide a patient with information about their illness because this action obeys the moral rule ‘‘Tell the truth’’ which comes from the principle, ‘‘Respect the patient’s autonomy’’. If more than one principle is relevant in ethical situations, no conflict will occur. However, if relevant principles conflict in any situation, judgment must be used in weighing which principle should take precedence in guiding actions. The principlism theory enhances the nursing profession because it provides a means of integrating multiple factors and reaching situation specific decisions. It continues to be the most popular and cited ethical framework for healthcare (http://www.etica-aplicata.ro/home/resources/ethics-frameworks/principlism).
The virtue ethics theory is based on the virtues of the individual, or moral character. Virtues are traits embedded into a person character that are valuable socially such as trustworthiness, honesty, and kindness. Virtues tackles questions related to the morals of what