In this paper, I will discuss the art and science nature of the nursing practice. Because it is impossible to have only one approach to the nursing practice, it can be said that nursing combines both science and art in its everyday tasks and goals.
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Nursing as Science
It would be unreasonable to argue that nursing does not include scientific approaches and methods because nurses are expected to have the up-to-date scientific knowledge necessary for the treatment, adequately assess it with the scientific base that they have, and demonstrate perfect scientific skills during their working process (Palos, 2014). The evidence-based care that nurses are obliged to provide is dependent on the nurses’ knowledge and information they possess, as well as their ability to make decisions and solve problems (Palos, 2014). Both academic and clinical experiences are required to treat patients professionally. Moreover, nurses also need to stay clinically competitive as new information about illnesses and diseases emerges. If nurses are willing to learn their whole life, only then they are able to become professionals. In addition, without science and scientific knowledge that they gain during their study and clinical experience, constant learning would not be possible.
Nursing science has developed over several decades; the modern nursing science utilizes philosophies, methods, models, and theories designed in the previous century (Alligood, 2013). Both theory and critique are able to advance nursing science, creating “inquiry-based practice, best practices, and the consistent quality outcomes” (Alligood, 2013, p. 8). Nursing science also uses such types of knowledge as grand theories, frameworks, conceptual models, and philosophies. Each of them contributes to the overall development of nursing science, allowing nurses to provide more quality services and treatment. Without this scientific base, nursing would not be as advanced as it has become in the twenty-first century.
The existence of nursing models is yet another proof that nursing is a science because these models provide specific frameworks “for a particular perspective of nursing practice” (Alligood, 2013, p. 45). The models focus on particular principles and methods, giving the nurse an opportunity to choose what model is the most suitable one for the treatment. To ensure that the models are used correctly, nurses need to have a strong theoretical knowledge base. However, nursing science does not only address the technical skills and practices that need to be performed; it also examines ethical approaches that need to be implemented. Therefore, science collaborates with ethics that are considered to be “the art of nursing”.
Nursing science also includes a special approach both towards healthy and chronically ill patients. The nurse’s goal is to promote health in these patients and use specific methods conditioned by the science of nursing, evidence-based care, or theory-based practice (Dunphy, Winland-Brown, Porter, & Thomas, 2015). Nursing science can have an impact on the symptom experience, strategies, management, and outcomes (Dunphy et al., 2015). Therefore, nursing is science that consists of many details and parts, which in return rely on scientific knowledge and clinical experience. Without them, professional nursing is impossible.
Nursing as Art
Not only technical skills and experience are important for a competent nurse. Since nurses work with patients, their particular expectations also need to be noted. Patients normally expect the nurse to be compassionate and communicative (Palos, 2014). Such caring approach could be named the art of nursing (Palos, 2014). Nevertheless, nurses’ workloads are often too overwhelming to handle; that is why care and compassion are not considered to be as significant as other demands that need to be regarded. However, empathy can lack not only in experienced nurses but also in students who have only just begun their clinical practice.
However, empathy that nurses experience towards their patients should be less emotional and more rational, i.e. the nurse needs to understand the needs and fears of their patients rather than feel them (Ward, Cody, Schaal, & Hojat, 2012). As Ward et al. (2012) state, the existing healthcare system prefers curing to caring; this approach, although practical, might not lead to the expected results. Connection and interpersonal relationships between the patient and the nurses, if they stay formal and in the context of treatment, are as important for successful healing as the nurse’s technical skills (Ward et al., 2012). It is important to “recognize an empathic opportunity when communicating with patients” (Ward et al., 2012, p. 38).
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Emphatic treatment and encounters can increase both the patient’s and the nurse’s satisfaction; moreover, professional burnout is also more likely to happen in those nurses that show less empathy in their approaches (Ward et al., 2012). Thus, care and understanding are necessary parts of the art of nursing; without them, treatment might not end successfully. The role of communication between the nurse and their patient should not be diminished as communication has different functions: it transmits a message from a sender to receiver that can contain different requests (understanding, comfort, information, or action) (Riley, 2016). For a nurse, it is of extreme importance to understand what request is hidden in the message, both when they are communication with patients or colleagues. This is the art of nursing: a thoughtful approach towards people the nurse is working with.
However, art is sometimes used in the nursing quite literally. When observing a piece of art, nursing students learn to use visual thinking strategies that are also required for clinical practice. This method can influence the time spent on physical observation of the patient, as well as communication with them. Visual thinking and communication, in return, can influence the outcomes of the examination, helping the nurse be more attentive and observant. Reduce of the time in face-to-face interactions can result in miscommunication and unproductive decisions.
Communicative skills are important, but so are caring skills as well. As Riley (2016) states, “caring is the basis of the nursing profession” (p. 11). It is advisable not only to focus on the patient’s health but also on the relationships with and support towards them. Caring is the essential characteristic of nursing that converts this practice into art where mindfulness and concentration can define the outcomes of the treatment. Patients do not only expect the nurse to be professional, but they also want to feel that the nurse cares about them and believes in their recovery.
Nursing is both art and science, as it requires a combination of knowledge and understanding of theory and a mindful and caring approach towards patients. Without science, nursing would be incomplete and underdeveloped, while without art it would only focus on the results and procedures, disregarding the patient as a human being that needs attention and assurance. Art and science are fundamental parts of the nursing process.
Alligood, M. R. (2013). Nursing theory: Utilization & application. New York, NY: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Dunphy, L. M., Winland-Brown, J., Porter, B., & Thomas, D. (2015). Primary Care: Art and Science of Advanced Practice Nursing. Philadelphia, PA: FA Davis.
Palos, G. R. (2014). Care, compassion, and communication in professional nursing: Art, science, or both. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 18(2), 247-248.
Riley, J. B. (2016). Communication in Nursing. New York, NY: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Ward, J., Cody, J., Schaal, M., & Hojat, M. (2012). The empathy enigma: An empirical study of decline in empathy among undergraduate nursing students. Journal of Professional Nursing, 28(1), 34-40.