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Applying Theory to a Practice Problem in Nursing

Introduction and Problem of Practice

This paper examines the significance of applications of theory in nursing practical situations. Concerned with the care of communities, families and individuals, nursing is an expansive discipline within the health sector, which encompasses collaborative and autonomous care of sick or health people in various settings. The nursing profession involves a range of definitions and specialties that would vary from place to place. However, in whatever specialties involved, the personnel in this profession have always strived to achieve the best results in their demanding discipline. In most cases, nursing profession is known to involve a lot of practical activities rather than theory. However, theoretical application is essential in such situations for it plays a key role in assisting the practitioners in achieving their goals effectively and for thus, it helps in facilitating positive development of the discipline.

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The nursing scope of practice is usually surrounded by various issues, some of which could be more delicate to handle and in that case, there is always a need for the practitioners to consider applying the necessary steps that will help to improve the quality of their tasks. This report observes the analysis of clients’ assessment data as one of the most common practice problems facing many nurses today in their daily interactions with patients and clients. According to Tomey and Alligood (1998), analyzing assessment data is a critical approach in the operations of a nurse within a particular health setting. However, lack of enough skills and knowledge on how to go about this practice can be a major problem since this is among the core interventions which help nurses carry out the appropriate care actions on their patients and clients.

Nursing is a unique profession in the medical sector whose major responsibility revolves around variables affecting people in diverse environments (Barbara and Lynn, 2006). The actions of any nursing professional are initiated to best attain, retain, and uphold optimal client’s wellbeing or good health through the intervention of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of diseases and disorders. Nursing services can be administered from diverse settings which include hospitals, private homes, learning institutions, cruise ships, military facilities and pharmaceutical companies, among others. In most of these settings, nursing practitioners are capable of making necessary assessments, planning, implementation, and evaluation of patient care independently of doctors through the formalities of their discipline. More importantly, nursing professionals also provide significant support to physicians in some critical medical matters (George, 2002). In all these working circumstances within the nursing scope, effective practical situations would be critical in the provision of high quality services in all settings. In order to display professionalism and maturity in their work, nurses must always learn to sustain their practical situations with theoretical approach. Apart from helping them achieve their nursing goals efficiently, this would be a sure way to facilitate the professional maturity in the entire nursing staff.

Literature review

Studies pertaining to effective administration of nursing practices in various health settings have identified a high need for work-based learning programmes and practices that would help nurses accomplish their tasks more efficiently. A good example of these intervention practices can be through the sustainance of normal nursing practices with theory. Theory refers to any set of concepts designed with the objective of providing a systematic view of a particular phenomenon (Whall, 1999). Numerous theories would be based on assumptions and are composed of definitions, models, concepts and propositions (Mobley and Johnson-Russell, 2005). In this regard, nursing theories are sets of concepts, definitions and assumptions that are derived from the models of nursing. In other words, these are organized sets of statements that would be related to the concepts in the expansive discipline of nursing. Nursing theories are important in that, they offer in-depth descriptions and explanations of the nursing phenomenon, thus helping nurses carry out their duties effectively. As it would be observed, the very practice of analyzing assessment data has always proved to be a challenging experience to many people in this profession.

Assessment is the first step of the nursing process which involves the continuous collection, confirmation and communication of a patient’s data as it would be compared to the norm. In this stage, information concerning the health status of a patient is assembled and assessed to assist health practitioners in making relevant care plan decisions on the patients. This approach is vital in assisting nurses devise the most appropriate care fit for their patients. In order to develop effective care plans on patients, nurses ought to draft informed assessments for the right decision making upon their clients (Potter and Perry, 2005). Being the first stage in the patients’ problem-solving framework, assessment is vital and for thus, it is likely to influence all the other phases of the process. This simply means that, improper assessment on patients would definitely lead to poor execution of the care plan. This can result to serious medical blunders and it is here where theory comes in to spare nurses the big disappointments of miscalculated actions in their profession.

The above scenario explains the significance of applying theory to practical situations as far as nursing profession is concerned. According to Benjamin and Curtis (1992), nursing theory comes with a wide range of benefits to the health practitioners. First of all, it provides a reliable framework for generating new ideas and knowledge, thus helping nurses to come into terms with some important knowledge gaps in their line of duty. The framework also serves as an informed guide to practical nursing situations. In most cases, these theories would tend to relate directly to the undertaken practices, thus helping nurses achieve their goals and objectives successfully. Nursing theory is also significant in that, it guarantees for diverse patterns of knowledge which could be lacking in practical situations (Reed, 1991). More importantly, apart from the benefit of word definitions, new ideas are likely to develop through nursing theories and this is certain to make a positive outcome in the implementation of nursing practices. Underpinning knowledge is ever present in those environments where nurses are much concerned about the welfare of their patients and clients, to support and sustain their practice circumstances. It is interesting to note that, one of the most common manner by which nursing theory has been organized into practical approaches is in the process of planning and analyzing assessment data (Barker, 2009). This has actually played a significant role in helping nurses to successfully overcome the practice problem in question. Application of nursing theories in the daily operations of a nurse is a clear outline of the essential changes that ought to be embraced for outstanding professional conduct and safe care in the nursing profession.

Application of Middle-Range Theory to Problem

Middle range theory refers to an approach to sociological theorizing which is aimed at integrating theoretical approach and empirical research (Peterson, 2008). The concept was first developed by Robert Merton, undoubtedly one of the most distinguished sociologists in the American history. Robert was born in the year 1910 in Philadelphia. As a young man, he grew up in the midst of cultural and educational centers and this would undoubtedly come to form the basis of his lifestyle that was characterized by a big desire to learn. As a matter of fact, the events surrounding Merton’s early life played a significant role in shaping one of the biggest science sociologists in history, out of him; a career he would strongly uphold till the time of his death in February 2003. Merton is recognized for developing notable concepts, some of which have greatly steered modern global developments in sociology. Some of these concepts include; the reference group, unintended consequences, role model, role strain and self-fulfilling prophecy, among others. Merton is also recognized for the development of the middle rage theory; a sociological approach which has found immense use in many sectors of our modern world.

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Merton’s theory is rather an approach on the construction theory and for thus; it does not necessarily refer to any particular theory. In most cases, the work of Merton can be compared to that of Talcott Parsons; his biggest influence in sociology, even though the two would differ greatly in their assumptions and definition of terms. One outstanding difference between the two sociologists was that, Parsons would tend to emphasize the necessity for social science in establishing a general foundation, while Merton preferred middle-range theories that were limited. As a testable theory bearing limited variables and scope, middle-range theory has continued to enjoy sufficient application in many sectors, including practical nursing. In nursing, middle-range theory is defined as a set of interrelated ideas that are focused on limited dimension of the nursing reality. In the highly reputed discipline of nursing, middle-range theories are incorporated on the basis of offering guidance for the daily tasks rooted to the profession (Alligood, 2002). As it would be observed, the general interest of the concept among nursing faculty has continued to take shape owing to the fact that, it informs research and practice in routine nursing tasks, thus helping nurses make informed care decisions and approaches on their patients and clients.

According to Johnson (1998), middle-range theory forms part of the framework of the nursing discipline. This concept addresses the substantive knowledge and understanding of the sector by emphasizing on various specific phenomena or guidelines related to the nursing process. Owing to its effectiveness, the concept has found constant use in nursing research and practices all over the world. Considering the practice problem identified in part 1 of this paper, this theory can play a significant role by equipping nurses with sufficient theoretical knowledge to sustain their nursing practices, thus helping to bring about the desired results in the nursing care. Incorporation of the theory in the nursing discipline is likely to steer positive outcomes in the sector thus leading to continued development of the discipline (Miranda, 2003). In this regard, this theory proves appropriate in equipping nurses with informed understanding of various practices in their disciplining such as analyzing assessment data among other significant nursing interventions.

Application of Borrowed Theory to Problem

Borrowed theory refers to a theory applied in a particular field, but which has been developed or shaped in another discipline (Villarruel and Bishop, 2001). As observed from various studies, the practice of health care disciplines borrowing theories from one another has become a norm in the contemporary world. Just like any other discipline in the health sector, nursing discipline has continued to rely on theories borrowed from other disciplines and this has raised constant debates and questioning on whether those theories, having been developed in other disciplines would bear adequate explanations of the nursing phenomena (Crosta, 2009). However, the truth of the matter here is that, by applying borrowed theories, nursing would be describing phenomena associated with those disciplines whereby propositions remains in the borrowed theory’s context. Based on this understanding, application of borrowed theory in the practice problem mentioned in part one would not be empirically adequate in defining the phenomena in the discipline of nursing. In that case, the idea of a borrowed theory may prove inappropriate in helping nurses deal with the big problem of analyzing assessment data of patients and clients.


While significant progress is notable in the development of the nursing discipline, there is still much concern on the interventions that need to be administered in ensuring that effective and high quality nursing care is executed upon patients and clients (McEwen and Wills, 2010). As observed from this report, the application of nursing theories to practice situations proves to be a significant approach towards the overall achievement of nursing goals and missions within various health settings. Nurses are most likely to achieve the best value of their work through informed and guided nursing processes. Part 2 of this paper observes the middle-range theory as a significant intervention to the practice problem identified in part 1. Part 3 observes the idea of borrowed theory in nursing and the relevance this would have on the identified practice problem which proves to be inappropriate. However, the application of the two theories presented in part 2 and 3 is observed to have continued to raise some problems of inconsistency. Talking of middle-range theories, they are firmly sustained with empirical data and this may not be easy to achieve in some cases. On the other hand, borrowed theory is likely to raise issues by connecting theory and research in nursing.


Alligood, M. (2002). Nursing Theory: Utilization & Application (3rd ed). Missouri: Elsevier Mosby Publications.

Barbara, M. & Lynn, K. (2009). Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice (5 ed.). New York: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Barker, A. (2009). Advanced practice nursing: Essential knowledge for the profession (1st ed.). Boston: Jones and Bartlett.

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Benjamin, M. and Curtis, J. (1992). Ethics in nursing. New York: Oxford University Press.

Crosta, M. (2009). “What Is Nursing? What Does a Nurse Do?” Medical News Today. Web.

George, J. (2002). Nursing Theories: The Base for Professional Nursing Practice.5th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Johnson, D. (1998). Symposium on theory development in nursing. Theory in nursing: borrowed and unique. Nursing Research, 17 (3), 206.

McEwen, M. & Wills, E. (2010). Theoretical basis for nursing (3rd ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

Miranda, D. (2003). Nursing activities score. Critical care medicine, 31 (2), 374.

Mobley, C. & Johnson-Russell, J. (2005). Theory-directed nursing practice. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Peterson, S. (2008). Middle range theories: application to nursing research. Maryland: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

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Potter, P. and Perry, A. (2005). Fundamentals of nursing. Missouri: mosby.

Reed, P. (1991). Toward a nursing theory of self-transcendence: Deductive reformulation using developmental theories. Advances in Nursing Science, 17 (4), 56-64.

Tomey, A. & Alligood, M. (1998). Nursing Theorists and Their Work, 4th ed. Boston: Mosby.

Villarruel, A. and Bishop, T. (2001). Borrowed theories, shared theories, and the advancement of nursing knowledge. Nursing Science Quarterly, 14 (2), 158.

Whall, A. (1999). Conceptual models of nursing: Analysis and application. New York: Hall Publishers.

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