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Jean Watson’s Nursing as Caring Theory


Jean Watson is a nursing living legend, who developed a theory and proved the importance of a transpersonal caring-healing moment in nursing (Clark, 2016). The main idea is to put the care of science as a core value in nursing. Caring should not be defined as a discipline that has to be taught only but as a foundation developed by a successful combination of metaphysical, philosophical, and even moral paradigms concerning human uniqueness (Santos et al., 2014). Watson introduces her theory as an epistemic endeavor regarding which a systematic study of caring includes crucial ethical and philosophical aspects. The main assumptions include the interpersonal practice of caring, the satisfaction of human needs, the promotion of health and personal growth, acceptance of patients, and the creation of a welcoming, caring environment.

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Watson develops four concepts: a human being, health, environment, and nursing. The relations between these concepts cannot be neglected. It is hard to define which concept is more important. It is not necessary to promote hierarchies but to accept all these concepts as one whole. For example, a human being is a person who asks for care, respect, and understanding, which may be provided in an appropriate environment where health is promoted by nurses as a harmony of body and soul. If one variable is removed, the effectiveness of the whole process may be put under a question. There is a kind of actual caring occasion under which the cooperation between a nurse and a patient achieves its perfection and improves the quality of care offered by nurses. Therefore, concepts may not affect each other but improve overall nursing.

Origins of the Theory

Nursing as Caring Theory was developed in the middle of the 1970s. During those years, the field of nursing and healthcare was changed considerably. Nurses demonstrated their values and abilities to make independent decisions, combine technical skills with clinical judgments. Being directly involved in nursing after the sudden death of her father after a heart attack, Watson was able to study and experience nursing from different perspectives. She was a student at the University of Colorado. Then, she was involved in numerous nursing practices. Finally, she became a professor and developed her skills. In her interviews, Watson admitted that her motivation was her frustration with the quality of nursing that was offered to people at the moment.

Though the theories developed by Martha Rogers and Dorothea Orem improved nursing, it was necessary to focus on nursing as a promising discipline where values and personal knowledge of caring performed a crucial role. Watson used a metaphysical concept and introduce caring as healing through several creative factors. Her approach included the notions of an ontology according to which it was possible to use methods and science-orientated steps to find out the truth. She relied on Eastern Philosophy ideas and paid attention to the environment as a crucial factor in healing. The principles of holism and Buddhism could be discovered in her theory. As a result of her investigations and personal conclusions, she offered love and caring as two significant factors of nursing.


Watson’s theory enhanced nursing practice considerably. Its usefulness may be explained by its easiness in understanding and using. It may be used as a helpful guide for nurses to improve their practice and consider all crucial factors in nursing practice. Holistic care is not easy to offer. Therefore, Watson’s practical suggestions and concepts contribute to understanding nursing and predicting expected outcomes. For example, original research developed by Arslan-Ozkan, Okumus, and Buldukoglu (2013) proves that the theory of human caring developed by Watson helps to promote positive effects on distress and infertility many women suffer from. This theory is used to explain how caring, the promotion of a safe and welcoming environment, effective nursing, and respect to patients may support people and their families in dealing with real challenges.


There are many ways to test the nursing theory. Watson’s theory meets the criteria of middle-ranged theories due to the possibility to use different methods in research. First, qualitative methods were used to develop a theory. Then, Watson chose a naturalistic approach and relied on her personal experience. Finally, she always believed that phenomenological methods could be neglected because they helped to combine all information gathered for her theory. She developed research in the area of human caring and loss. Besides, the theory was improved by the scientific research process in terms of which a decision-making plan was offered to nurses. Such researchers as Clayton, Martin, and Smith investigate the implementation of Watson’s theory in different settings during the last three decades. Each time, the theory was proved as an effective contribution to nursing. The study introduced by Arslan-Ozkan, Okumus, and Buldukoglu (2014) could be used as the best proof. Such statements as the recognition of human needs, the promotion of all patients’ feelings, and the development of humanistic-altruistic values are the main strengths of the theory.

Overall Evaluation

In general, Watson’s theory of human caring in nursing is comprehensive and specific. It focuses on caring as a possibility to heal people. Its strength is the attention to care and love in nursing and the development of creative factors that support nurses and their patients. Its main weakness is the impossibility to demonstrate the outcomes of such a caring approach in nursing. People do not know what to expect when they use Watson’s ideas and how to compare their activities. Still, it is necessary to use this theory in advanced practice because it helps to define the sides of nursing care that have been identified earlier.

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Clark, C.S. (2016). Watson’s human caring theory: Pertinent transpersonal and humanities concepts for educators. Humanities, 5(2), 21. Web.

Arslan-Ozkan, I., Okumus, H., & Buldukoglu, K. (2014). A randomized controlled trial of the effects of nursing care based on Watson’s theory of human caring on distress, self-efficacy and adjustment in infertile women. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70(8), 1801-1812.

Santos, M.R., Bousso, R.S., Vendramim, P., Baliza, M.F., Misko, M.D., & Silva, L. (2014). The practice of nurses caring for families of pediatric inpatients in light of Jean Watson. Revista da Escola de Enfermagem da USP, 48, 80-86. Web.

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