Plain Talk: Google’s search engine confirms it: Philosophies of health don’t really exist. And they should. They must if nursing is going to advance in its philosophical work. That’s the only way healthcare will advance past the current models.
Nursing philosophy is hard because most of the time what is being referred to is not nursing philosophy, but health philosophy. The professor assigns the nursing students the ever-elusive, most hated assignment: “Write a 5-10 page paper on your nursing philosophy, undergird it with theory, and demonstrate how it is implemented in the four domains of nursing (nurse, patient, environment, health), and justify your reasons for your position.” This is literally an impossible assignment. Volumes have been written on these subjects. It cannot be addressed in a short paper. The single revelation here is that even professors don’t understand it. I don’t fault them, though, because our discipline has not adequately pursued the development of philosophy.
I’ve realized over the last few years, though, that the main difficulty lies in the fact that we have not adequately stated a philosophy of health. With all the various interpretations and dimensions of health discussed in nursing, psychology, medicine, and sociology, we are still missing something. I think that “something” is found in our presuppositions…our fundamental beliefs and assumptions that guide our view and interpretation of the world.
The quandaries of the nursing philosophy assignment is a clue to the fact that we don’t have it quite right. Look at how nursing views “health”: physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental. It’s a modular idea. We took the medical paradigm of the body’s mechanical functioning, glued on emotional and spiritual dimensions, and set it against a backdrop of environment. When all systems are “go”, we want to call it “health” or “energy” or “being”. Even integrative medicine that emphasizes nutrition, stress reduction, and exercise are generally based on a modular approach.
If nursing is going to make sense of nursing philosophy, it needs to consider philosophies of health. The current philosophy of health as stated in the paragraph above is inadequate. Before we can be prescriptive (make recommendations for people’s health) we must be proscriptive (describe what health is & is not). Since health has come to mean more than the physical, and more along the lines of human flourishing, then we have to figure out what constitutes human flourishing.
Enough for now.
(Photo source: Research Haven)