How to Write a Nursing Philosophy Paper

Assignment:  Write a 10 page paper on nursing philosophy.  Expound how it relates to the theorist of your choice, the nursing metaparadigm, and implications for nursing practice.

Could anything be more painful?  Or boring?  Or seemingly unimportant and irrelevant?  Really….is this going to be of value doing CPR on your patient who just coded from a drug overdose?  How do these nurse academicians think up this stuff, anyway?  That’s what I used to think, too.
Set those thoughts aside.  Negativity is of no help to you now.  Nursing philosophy and theory IS important.  That’s why your professor created the assignment.  Don’t let the unfamiliarity of it scare you off.  I’ll help you with it.
Reality:  The paper is 25% of your grade.PLAIN TALK:  Your philosophy, which is just a fancy name for your beliefs and values and WHY those are your beliefs and values, is what guides your selection of theory and how you envision what effective and good nursing looks like. So philosophy affects both the beginning and end of nursing actions. It explains why you do the things you do, and why you do them in the way that you do them.

Let me help you tackle it.  These assignments are so often way too broad and extensive, mainly because professors often don’t appreciate the enormity of what they’re really asking.  The one thing that helps the most is to imagine how you would explain to a friend why you went into nursing, what “health” is, and what nursing should “look like”.  In this case, you’re explaining it to your professor.  Here’s how to do it:
1.  Break down the assignment into its basic elements:
     A.  Personal philosophy of nursingSee my prior blog post on this topic.
     B.  Metaparadigm:  Nurse, patient, environment, health.  Although this is taken as written as stone, you may, like I, not fully agree.  But accept it for now.  Changing metaparadigms is a lot of work.
     C.  Definition of nursing.  The most widely accepted definition is the American Nurses’ Association definition.
     D.  Theorist of choice.  This often depends on the type of patient you’re caring for.  No one theory works for every setting.  So state up front what kind of patient you are thinking of and that will direct your choice of theory.  Write in your paper that no one theory works for everything.  Justify why  you have chosen that particular theory for that particular kind of patient and that particular kind of nursing.  For example, a post-op orthopedic patient fits well with Orem’s self-care theory.  Care of the chronically ill/diabetic Hispanic patient is a nice fit for Leininger’s transcultural theory.  The newly divorced patient or newly widowed patient fits with Meleis’ transitions theory.
2.  Another element you need to think about is your philosophy of health.    Nobody ever talks about this.  You need to think about what is health?  It’s not necessarily the nursing metaparadigm.  Read through this blog to get more ideas.  Come to your own conclusions.  You need to state your beliefs about health.
3.  Once you’ve decided on the elements above, you need to figure out how these elements relate together.  The most common error is to try to say everything about every element.  That ends up a bloated, overwritten, blob.  Pick one small area of each element and link it logically to all the other elements.  For example, maybe you center it all on a hypothetical patient.  Maybe you will focus on the generalities of a quality of nursing, like caring and show what that looks like at each level.

What you are doing is building a pyramid.  The bottom layer is your philosophy.  The next layer is the nursing metaparadigm, then the theory, then nursing practice, then the particular patient where one-on-one nursing occurs.  Your job is to connect the dots from one layer to another.

Remember:  Your philosophy, which is just a fancy name for your beliefs and values and WHY those are your beliefs and values, is what guides your selection of theory and how you envision what effective and good nursing looks like.  So philosophy affects both the beginning and end of nursing actions.  It explains why you do the things you do, and why you do them in the way that you do them.

Good luck.  You’ll do fine.  Let me know how I can help.

4 comments
  1. Eileen McGee said:

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I am one of those professors contemplating giving this assignment, I will bear your words in mind and also point my students toward your wonderful site
    Eileen

    • Eileen,
      Thank you for your kind words! If you are so inclined, I would welcome input from faculty and students on what topics they would find pertinent. I have been lax in keeping up this blog…doctoral studies…you know how that goes!
      Pamela

  2. salote salabuco said:

    Thank you very much for these explanation, this is really one of the assignment that I have to write on. If I can just ask you a question, for an ICU nurse(adult) looking at orems theory, is it a good theory for me to use on ventilated patients?. Thank you hope to hear from you.

    • The way to know if a particular theory is appropriate or not is if it undergirds your own beliefs about nursing care, if it guides your care of the patient, and if it results in positive outcomes for the patient. You have to be able to justify your theory choice on those grounds. Your choice does not have to answer every question, or solve every problem the patient has, but should be easily applicable and sensible. Whether Orem’s theory is a good choice for you or not is a question that only you can answer. As you know, Orem’s focus was on assisting patients towards independent self-care, and I suggest you read her actual writings to determine if the theory is a good fit. I strongly urge you to read Orem’s book, “Nursing: Concepts of Practice” (1990)

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