Marlaine Smith’s Theory of Unitary Caring


The provision of high-quality health care is an integral part of contemporary society, and it is essential to observe that nurses are directly responsible for this task (Dyess, Prestia, & Smith, 2015). One of the primary contributors to the development of the modern healthcare system is Marlaine Smith, who developed the theory of unitary care. The primary assumption of this theory is that every patient, regardless of sex, age, prejudices, and other factors, has the right to rely on help from junior medical personnel (Smith & Parker, 2015).

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Since significant progress has been made in the sphere of advanced medical practice in recent decades, it is expected that patients will receive adequate treatment, attention, and care from nursing professionals (Valentine, Ordóñez, & Millender, 2014). Otherwise, in cases when nursing care is insufficient, the patient outcomes could be significantly aggravated (Jones, Hamilton, & Murry, 2015). Therefore, the necessity for the inclusion of comprehensive nursing theories in the nursing practice is evident (Turkel et al., 2018).

Using the Theory of Unitary Caring in Practice

Because of the large flow of patients in different departments, there is a need to find an approach to care that will allow maximum attention to each individual and not take too much time. According to Dyess, Prestia, and Smith (2015), the intensive principle of work supported by the theory of unitarity “may offer guidance in living with caring in dynamic situations through manifesting intention” (p. 114). Medical professionals improve their skills constantly, working with different patients, which is certainly one of the merits of this concept.

The instrumental techniques that are used in theory under consideration may be useful from the point of view of complex care. As Smith and Parker (2015) note, an integrated, or unitary, approach allows achieving the positive dynamics of treatment and contributes to a speedy recovery. The use of Smith’s theory in nursing practice makes it possible to provide the necessary assistance to every patient. This concept is particularly relevant is in oncology departments where patients are forced to experience stress and severe anxiety.

Applying the Theory to a Practical Nursing Situation

Since the importance of the use of the unitary approach in the nursing practice was identified in the previous section, it is appropriate to provide the scenario of a nursing situation to which Smith’s theory could be applied. One of the most suitable examples of the theory’s application is the understaffed clinical environment in the oncology department. In such a situation, when the risk of missed care is apparent, the use of Smith’s theory is highly relevant since it provides an instrument for developing an integrated care approach, which would include patients’ individual characteristics into the nursing plan of action (Valentine et al., 2014). Therefore, a nurse that has to perform his or her tasks in the circumstances such as in the proposed scenario will be able to efficiently distribute his or her efforts in order to give patients an equal amount of care. The unitary principle, developed by Smith, appears to be highly relevant for solving practical nursing problems.


In my opinion, the identified approach is really useful because Marlaine Smith’s theory of unitary care is universal and can be relevant in modern nursing practice. The active participation of junior medical personnel allows achieving positive patient outcomes and helping the maximum number of people. The use of theory in oncology departments is appropriate since a large number of patients need comprehensive care, and the dynamic actions of nurses may be effective in case urgent measures are needed.


Dyess, S. M. L., Prestia, A. S., & Smith, M. C. (2015). Support for caring and resiliency among successful nurse leaders. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 39(2), 104-116. Web.

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Jones, T. L., Hamilton, P., & Murry, N. (2015). Unfinished nursing care, missed care, and implicitly rationed care: State of the science review. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 52(6), 1121-1137.

Smith, M. C., & Parker, M. E. (2015). Nursing theories and nursing practice (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

Turkel, M. C., Fawcett, J., Amankwaa, L., Clarke, P. N., Dee, V., Eustace, R.,… Zahourek, R. (2018). Thoughts about nursing curricula: Dark clouds and bright lights. Nursing Science Quarterly, 31(2), 185-189. Web.

Valentine, K., Ordóñez, M., & Millender, E. (2014). Transforming practice through embracing caring in nurse-managed centers. International Journal for Human Caring, 18(3), 52-64. Web.

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