Florence Nightingale’s Environmental Theory Role in Nursing

Words: 835
Topic: Health & Medicine

Nursing theories provide very important principles to nursing practice. This paper presents a discussion of the environmental theory developed by Florence Nightingale. Environmental theory was the first in the modern nursing history (Masters, 2012).

The theory states that unhygienic conditions affect the health of people living in that environment. This is because environment contains pathogens, pests and bacteria that cause various diseases. Nightingale concludes that unsanitary environmental conditions pose health hazards to people.

She identified key environmental factors that determine health of the individuals in any environment, namely; ventilation, light, cleanliness, noise, variety, warmth, and food (Masters, 2012). According to Nightingale, if any of these factors is not right, then people living in that environment are likely to get sick. But she adds that external influences can prevent, suppress or contribute to diseases or even death (Masters, 2012).

The theory is based on four interconnected concepts, namely: 1) person, which is considered the patient affected by the surrounding; 2) environment, which includes everything in the surrounding either social, physical, or psychological; 3) health, which is the state of well-being and is maintained when the environment is in control and; 4) nursing, which is needed to ensure that environmental health determinants are in the right state (Masters, 2012).

Rationale for Choosing the Theory

I chose this theory because I felt that people needed to be enlightened on the importance of keeping the environment clean, hence making it a very good theory in preventive health. It is important to note that no matter how much we try to keep off diseases, the efforts are futile if the environment is dirty.

Microbes always thrive in a dirty environment and use human being as an important host in their life cycle. As long as there are sick people in the environment, healthy people will always get infected because sick people release dangerous microbes into the environment. As such, hospitals should be kept clean since they are environments wit a high risk of infection given the fact that sick people are present and releasing high volumes of microbes there, which can be harmful to other patients.

In this regard, Korniewucz and Masri (2010) posit that environment plays a great role in outbreak infections as it provides agents of transfer of microbes. The authors encourage hand washing and cleaning people’s surrounding to minimize spread of infections (Korniewucz & Masri 2010).

Gina, Anissa and Joanne (2013) add that things, such as noise in the environment, should also be minimized since they can cause stress-related ailments. The authors advise that patients in hospitals should be made comfortable by keeping them in a quiet environment to accelerate the recuperation process.

Having this in mind, I decided to choose this theory due to the importance of the matter. Living in a dirty place exposes one to diseases. According to a research by Patel (2004), people who are not aware of the advantages of being in a clean environment are more likely to get sick since they are less likely to take good care of their environment. The author recommends the need to create awareness on the role played by environment in human health (Patel 2004).

Application of the Theory in Nursing Practice

It is clear from the discussion that staying in a clean environment is necessary for good health. Health care facilities should be clean to avoid transfer of pathogens from one patient to the other.

I once worked in a clinic in which cleanliness of the environment was not taken seriously. The health workers, especially those in the laboratory, were not taking the necessary precautions to keep the environment clean. There was limited use of gloves and hand sanitizer.

There was also poor disposal of clinical waste as it was burnt in an open air, which poses a health hazard as well. The management cited resource constraints as a reason for not being able to handle waste in a hygienic manner. In addition, patients were left to mingle with patients diagnosed with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, flu and chicken pox, hence exposing them to health risks.

With the knowledge of this theory, I am better informed about the consequences of being in a dirty environment, and I have an obligation to enlighten people. Therefore, I would apply this theory by educating the health workers in this clinic about the importance of keeping the clinic clean. The clinic should invest in an incinerator to ensure that clinical waste is properly handled to minimize the associated health risks.

Patients with highly infectious diseases should also be isolated from the rest to avoid further spread of infections. The management should not take human health for granted. It is better to close a clinic, unless its management find the funds to address these critical issues, than to continue running it the way that only makes it a breeding ground for microbes. As a way of creating awareness, I would place notices on the clinic notice boards to educate people on the importance of keeping the environment clean.


Gina, M., Anissa, B. & Joanne, D. (2013). Quiet at night: Implementing a Nightingale principle. American Journal of Nursing, 113(12), 43-51.

Korniewucz, D.M. & Masri, M. (2010). Exploring the factors associated with hand hygiene compliance of nurses during routine clinical practice. Journal of Applied Nursing Research, 23(2), 86-90.

Masters, K. (2012). Nursing theories: A framework for professional practice. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Learning.

Patel, S. (2004). The impact of environmental cleanliness on infection rates. Nursing Times, 100(01), 32.