Caring for patients is a core element of practice in nursing. Not only can the lack of caring behaviors in a hospital lead to individuals’ dissatisfaction with rendered services and ways of treatment, but it also may threaten the healthcare quality in general. The Theory of Human Caring developed by Jean Watson addresses the given problem. It aims to promote caring behaviors among nurses and, in this way, to improve their performance and overall patient outcomes.
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Watson’s theory concentrates on the human paradigm and its interconnectedness with the nursing paradigm. Nurses’ personal development, mindfulness, and self-care are the keys to a better practice of nursing and the ability to establish meaningful relationships with patients (Sitzman & Watson, 2013). The given idea leads to an assumption that transpersonal caring relationships form the essence of nursing. Other underlying concepts that take part in the theory are caritas processes, caring moments and caring occasions, as well as healing consciousness.
The theoretical concepts introduced by Watson are interconnected. Clark (2016) defines the term “transpersonal” as “reaching beyond the personal realm or transcending the singular, personal state of being” (p. 2). It implies connectedness to others and the ability to capture spiritual dimensions. In order to achieve this state, the nurse should have a healing consciousness or, in other words, an intention to enter the transpersonal realm (Clark, 2016). In turn, the commitment to heal others creates the caring moment, which means a choice by both the nurse and the patient to develop transpersonal relationships.
Origins of the Theory
The Theory of Human Caring is largely based on the personal views and experiences of its founder. Its development commenced in the late ’70s, just when the popularity of various esoteric and spiritual practices in the US society gathered momentum. It is valid to presume that Watson’s theory was in line with that trend. In addition, the proposed framework could aim to address the deficiencies associated with task-oriented care models, which were still commonly used in practice during those days.
The principal Watson’s motivation to write the theory was the creation and promotion of a holistic approach to healthcare. She aimed to integrate “art, science, humanities, spirituality, and new dimensions of mind-body-spirit medicine and nursing” into one framework (Watson Caring Science Institute, 2018, para. 2). She utilized some of the concepts introduced in transpersonal and humanistic psychology and explained them by such theorists as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and others. The given psychological paradigm honors “an entire spectrum of human experience and capacity, inclusive of ‘non-ordinary states of consciousness” (Clark, 2016, p. 3). It means that the model acknowledges multiple dimensions of human nature.
Watson’s theory informs nurses about beneficial ways of patient-practitioner interaction. The caring framework is thus useful and helpful to nursing as it may potentially improve patient outcomes and perceptions of healthcare. The study by Ozan and Okumuş (2017) reveals that the utilization of approaches found within the Theory of Human Caring helps improve coping mechanisms and reduce patients’ anxiety. They tested such practices as “teaching-learning, belief-hope development, problem-solving, expression of emotions, help-confidence relationship, and human-needs assistance” in communication with women who experienced infertility treatment failures (Ozan & Okumuş, 2017, p. 106). The results showing the positive effect of the theory on the reduction of the level of stress and negative emotions were significant. Based on these findings, it is possible to presume that the utilization of the identified caring model may be useful in supporting positive treatment outcomes as well because excess stress may aggravate some adverse symptoms. It means that the theory contributes to the prediction of intervention results.
Besides the randomized controlled trial study by Ozan and Okumuş (2017), Watson’s theory is tested in many other research projects, both quantitative and qualitative. For instance, Pajnkihar, Štiglic, and Vrbnjak (2017) evaluated the correlations between the creative factors discussed previously in the paper and patient satisfaction, as well as their understanding by the members of nursing teams. Pajnkihar et al. (2017) proposed that the assessment of nurses’ caring behaviors and their perception by patients can help hospitals develop better practice improvement strategies. They revealed, however, that “patients appear to value more instrumental and technical skills than nurses do,” while nurses tend to value the expressive side of care more (Pajnkihar et al., 2017, p. e2940). Nevertheless, these findings do not indicate the inadequacy of the theoretical assumptions made by Watson as the perception of caring behaviors may vary in different types of settings and depending on individuals’ health conditions.
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Conclusion: Overall Evaluation
Watson’s Theory of Human Caring comprehensively covers a specific problem of nurse-patient interactions, as well as nurses’ caring behaviors as such. It seems to capture multiple dimensions of the matter and consider broader factors defining both individuals’ health conditions and the quality of healthcare: psychological, social, cultural, and environmental. Since it is based on the assumption that any person is a mind-body-soul entity, the given theoretical model can be realized within the context of holistic nursing. However, though it addresses a lot of issues pertaining to patient interaction and professional development of practitioners, it is not too general and can be easily translated into practice.
There are no significant weaknesses in Watson’s theory, yet nurses should take into account individuals’ characteristics and setting features in general when choosing an interaction model. As research evidence shows, some patients do not require expressive, transpersonal forms of communication. At the same time, the major advantage of the theory is that it provides practitioners with clear, practical guidelines, which facilitate its implementation. Overall, it is recommendable to use the Theory of Human Caring in practice because it can help create a favorable environment needed for fast recovery of patients’ health.
Clark, C. S. (2016). Watson’s human caring theory: Pertinent transpersonal and humanities concepts for educators. Humanities, 5(21), 1-12.
Ozan, D. Y., & Okumuş, H. (2017). Effects of nursing care based on Watson’s theory of human caring on anxiety, distress, and coping, when infertility treatment fails: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Caring Sciences, 6(2), 95-109.
Pajnkihar, M., Štiglic, G., & Vrbnjak, D. (2017). The concept of Watson’s carative factors in nursing and their (dis)harmony with patient satisfaction. PeerJ, 5, e2940.
Sitzman, K., & Watson, J. (2013). Caring science, mindful practice: Implementing Watson’s human caring theory. New York, NY: Springer.
Watson Caring Science Institute. (2018). Caring science theory. Web.