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Patricia Sawyer Benner’s Nursing Theory

Introduction Part

Several theories have been presented to guide and inform nursing practice. When used efficiently, the theories can guide nurses and healthcare professionals to deliver quality support to their patients. One of these theories is known as From Novice to Expert. The theory was developed by Patricia Sawyer Benner in the year 1984. The theorist was born in the year 1942 in the state of Virginia (Bowen & Prentice, 2016). Benner made her decision to become a health professional while in California. She pursued her “associate’s nursing degree from Pasadena City College” (Bowen & Prentice, 2016, p. 145). She completed her bachelor’s degree from the same institution in 1964 (Humphreys, 2013). Three years later, the nurse married Richard Benner. She later completed her master’s degree in the year 1970 from the University of California (Humphreys, 2013). She earned her PhD from the University of California. She took up a teaching job in the same university. She has published several books and articles focusing on the issue of nursing.

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Basic Components and Relationships in the Theory

Patricia Benner’s theory of nursing is founded on five key levels of concepts. These include “novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert” (Bowen & Prentice, 2016, p. 146). These concepts are organized in such a way that they relate with one another effectively. For instance, the novice level defines a nurse who is at the beginning of his or her profession. The individual lacks experience and must focus on the existing rules. These rules must be applied adequately and efficiently. The second level is the advanced beginner. This professional begins to accept his or her duties. Experience is gained from continuous practice. This step is then followed by the competent level. This stage is achieved after 2 years in the healthcare environment. The professional becomes aware of his or her long-term goals in nursing (Bowen & Prentice, 2016). Analytical thinking, positive decision-making, cultural competence, and evidence-based practice are some of the strengths associated with the competent registered nurse.

The proficient nurse is the one who understands each and every situation. Holistic understanding becomes evident during this stage. Consequently, the nurse engages in acceptable decision-making. The individual learns from clinical situations and experiences. Finally, the expert nurse does not have to follow the rules or guidelines in order to address the targeted situations. The use of expertise and knowledge is what informs the nurse’s practice. The individual has an “intuitive grasp of various clinical situations” (Dahn, Alexander, Malloch, & Morgan, 2014, p. 6). The professional’s performance is highly-proficient and flexible.

These components are developed systematically before the nurse becomes a professional practitioner. Three skill levels are outlined by the theorist in order to define the major aspects of effective performance. The first aspect of effective performance is that the nurse embraces the use of concurrent experiences in order to make adequate clinical decisions. The second aspect is that the learner begins to perceive situations as complete or whole parts (Dahn et al., 2014). The third aspect is that the novice eventually becomes an involved practitioner who can engage in active care delivery.

From this analysis, it is evident that the theorist merges the four meta-paradigms of nursing with these five unique components. The ultimate goal is to ensure the three aspects of effective performance are realized as the nurse evolves from the novice to the proficient care provider (Humphreys, 2013). That being the case, nurses can embrace this theory in order to become competent providers of evidence-based and acceptable care.

The relevance of the Theory

The academic and professional journey of Patricia Benner can be used to analyze the From Novice to Expert theory. The components and ideas outlined in theory can make it easier for me to become an expert who understands the changing needs of my clients. This is the case because the theory can encourage me to focus on the concept of lifelong learning. My clinical experiences will always be used to inform my expertise and care delivery model. The theory acknowledges the fact that nurses should be on the frontline to achieve new ideas and concepts in order to address the needs of the targeted clients (Bowen & Prentice, 2016). The other benefit of the theory is that it can make it easier for me to identify the best clinical practices and ideas that can support my goals. The five steps of the theory will guide me to embrace new concepts and ideas that can inform my nursing philosophy.

The theory is also applicable to the healthcare sector. This is the case because the theory focuses on the idea of informed practice. The theory revolutionizes the idea of nursing by making it an evidence-based field that is guided by practice. The ideas, concepts, and practices observed in the clinical setting can be embraced by caregivers and physicians in order to become competent providers of quality medical care (Dahn et al., 2014). Professionals in the healthcare sector can use the theory to continue acquiring new concepts and using their practical experiences to inform their clinical decisions.

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As mentioned earlier, many clients who want to receive quality care will definitely find this theory meaningful and relevant. This is the case because the clients will be able to receive quality care from the expert nurse. The field of nursing research can use the model to identify evidence-based ideas to inform practice. Researchers in medical practice can also use the theory to identify new models that can eventually inform nursing practice and support the health needs of more patients (Bowen & Prentice, 2016). The theory supports the idea of scientific inquiry in order to come up with better concepts that can eventually inform nursing practice. Researchers can use the notion to complete numerous studies and eventually support the health needs of more patients.

Summary and Conclusion

The above analysis shows conclusively that Patricia Benner’s theory is a meaningful model that can guide nurses to become competent providers of evidence-based care. The theory can be applied in different settings to inform nursing practice. Nurses who want to become proficient caregivers can benefit from the five steps of the theory. Professionals in the field will use the theory to develop better healthcare delivery models that focus on the unique needs of the targeted clients. Each step of the theory can be used by caregivers, nurses, and physicians to become experts who understand the changing needs of their clients (DeSandre, 2014). The connection between the stages and the meta-paradigms of nursing can empower nurses to develop better philosophies that can support their objectives. The main weakness of the theory is that it does not give a clear distinction of the stages. The use of years to assign the stages or experiences of a nurse is also inappropriate.


Bowen, K., & Prentice, D. (2016). Are Benner’s expert nurses near extinction? Nursing Philosophy, 17(2), 144-148.

Dahn, J., Alexander, R., Malloch, K., & Morgan, S. (2014). Does a relationship exist between the type of initial violation and recidivism? Journal of Nursing Regulation, 5(3), 4-8.

DeSandre, C. (2014). Project FNP: Socializing expert nurses to advanced practice roles. Journal of Nursing Education, 53(7), 427-428.

Humphreys, M. (2013). Developing an educational framework for the teaching simulation within nurse education. Open Journal of Nursing, 3(1), 363-371.

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