What is a Nursing Theory?

  • nursing theoryNursing Theory is a group of  interrelated concepts, definitions, and propositions applied to the study of various phenomena that are developed from various studies of disciplines and related experiences that aims to view the essence of nursing care.
  • Nursing theory is an organized framework of concepts and purposes designed to guide the practice of nursing.
  • Nursing theories are used to describe, develop, disseminate, and use present knowledge in nursing.
  • Nursing theories provide a framework for nurses to systematize their nursing actions: what to ask, what to observe, what to focus on and what to think about.
  • They provide a framework to develop new and validate current knowledge. They help to describe, explain, predict and prescribe.
  • Nursing Theory is used to: Define commonalities of the variables in a stated field of inquiry; guide nursing research and actions; predict practice outcomes; and predict client response.

Nursing Theories can be grouped into 3 levels; the Grand, Middle Range, or Micro Range Theories.

Grand Theories in Nursing

grand nursing theoriesGrand Theories in Nursing are conceptual frameworks that defines broad perspectives for nursing practice. They are simply known to speak a broad range of important relationship among concepts of a discipline. They are the broadest in scope. representing universal and broad nursing phenomena.



Examples of Grand Theories

  • Abdellah, Faye Glenn – Practice model of nursing for health for all.
  • Benner, Patricia – Humanistic Model.
  • Hall, Lydia Eloise – Core, Care and Cure Circles.
  • Henderson, Virginia Avernal – “assisting individuals to gain independence in relation to the performance of activities  contributing to health or its recovery”.
  • Dorothy Johnson – Behavioral System Model
  • King, Imogene – Open Systems Theory.
  • Levine, Myra Estrin – Conservation Model.
  • Neuman, Betty – Systems Theory.
  • Newman, Margaret A. – Health as Expanding Consciousness.
  • Nightingale, Florence – Environmental Theory
  • Orem, Dorothea E. – Self-Care Deficit Theory (SCDNT).
  • Parse, Rosemarie R. – Theory of Human Becoming
  • Paterson, Josephine and Zderad, Loretta – Humanistic Nursing Theory.
  • Rogers, Martha Elizabeth – The Science of Unitary Human Beings.
  • Roy, Callista – Adaptation Theory.
  • Travelbee, Joyce – “Human to Human Relationship Model”
  • Watson, Jean – Theory of Caring.


Middle Range Theories in Nursing

Middle Range Theories are known to have a narrower and detailed focus compared to grand theories. They have lower level of abstraction than grand theories and they offer a more direct application to research and practice. These theories are specific to nursing practice and specify the area of practice, age range of the patient, nursing action or intervention, and proposed outcome. Middle Range Theories come out at the intersection of research  and practice, when theory guides practice, practice creates research questions, and research informs understanding of theory and practice.


Examples of Middle Range Theories in Nursing

  • Dr. Katharine Kolcaba – The Comfort Theory
  • Madelaine M Leininger – Transcultural Nursing.
  • Ida Jean Orlando – The Deliberative Nursing Process.
  • Hildegard E. Peplau – Interpersonal Relations.


Micro Range Nursing Theories

Micro range theory are more tentative that grand and middle range theories and they serve as a means to test working hypotheses so they can be developed in a more organized theoretical system. Higgens and Moore (2000)


Click here to know more about the different Nursing Theories.


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