The growth of ideas and theory in nursing
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This chapter aims to help you critically understand the relevance of theory to inform the ongoing development of nursing knowledge and contribute to the improvement of nursing practice. Clinical practice informed by theory gives nurses the necessary foundation to enlighten and restructure healthcare and improve quality of care at all practice levels. We begin with a brief overview of the philosophies, models and theories that underpin contemporary nursing theories. The next section emphasises nursing practice with a focus on knowledge utilisation with theory and research as tools of practice. Broadly, we can state that theory refers to any attempt to explain or represent a phenomenon and ranges from the highly abstract and large scale, to specific. Theories act as a lens by which to view the world. If you change the thickness of the lens and its shape then what is being viewed is seen differently, in more or less detail, or expanded or reduced in size. Theories also act like a kaleidoscope, where turning the end of the instrument creates different patterns forming from the same small elements that are present. Theory and the application of theory to social phenomena results in key elements (we shall call them variables and ideas) that underpin our understanding of society being emphasised in different ways. Likewise key philosophical ideas such as the nature of truth, evil and justice may be viewed differently. When we focus on the process and practice of nursing, the key aspects that need explanation are the nurse, the nursed and the care setting, including practices, processes and organisation. Nursing theory helps us make sense of processes and practices. Nursing theories explain why and when nursing takes place, provide an understanding of how the practice of nursing proceeds and also assists with practice change through critique. In this way nursing theories help us understand the practice of nursing, how we interact with the nursed and how we structure our nursing actions to provide nursing care.
Contexts of Nursing: an introduction
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