Nursing Theories for Nurse Educators

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Nurse educators use nursing theories, which are developed from scientific evidence and valid data, to create supportive frameworks for patient care. These theories offer strategies and approaches that play a vital role in educating the next generation of healthcare providers.

Nurse educators design curricula based on sound educational principles, research and theory to help student nurses develop the knowledge and skill they need to provide care. Nursing theory permeates almost every component of nursing education, particularly for registered nurses (RNs) who are moving into the next phase of their careers as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

“Dated and untested management strategies aren’t useful and can even be an obstacle in the delivery of safe patient care,” Josefina I. Alejandro, DNP, said in “Lessons learned through nursing theory,” published in Nurse2018. “However, when supported by evidence, theories in practice are forever contemporary.”

In addition to nursing science and pedagogical skills, educational theories in nursing contain vital information for RNs who are considering careers as nurse educators. Students in Duquesne University’s master’s in nursing education online program learn how grand theories help nurses become better educators and caregivers.

Leading Educational Theories in Nursing

Nursing theories can be applied to many different circumstances. However, the leading nursing programs, including the program at Duquesne University, incorporate the grand theories into the masters in nursing curriculum. Grand theories are considered the theoretical framework that supports the principles and key concepts of nursing.

Self-Care Nursing Theory

Introduced by Dorothea Orem, the Self-Care Nursing Theory (also known as the Self-Care Deficit Nursing Theory) focuses on the nurses’ role in supporting the patients’ ability to be self-sufficient and responsible for their own care. The theory is based on the idea that people must be knowledgeable about their health problems to provide adequate self-care. The theory is made up of three interconnected theories: the theory of self-care, the theory of self-care deficit, and the theory of nursing systems.

Orem said she based her theory on her practice as a nurse and contemporary nursing literature and thought. During her career, she published several books that explored and expanded her theory, including Guides for Developing Curricula for the Education of Practical Nurses and Nursing: Concepts of Practice.

Culture Care Theory

As a nurse, Madeleine Leininger recognized a lack of cultural and care knowledge as a missing component in nursing and patient care. From her experiences, she developed transcultural nursing and the Cultural Care Theory to study and explain the outcomes of transcultural nursing.

Leininger’s theory is focused on providing care that is in harmony with a patient’s cultural beliefs, practices, and values. In the 1960s, she coined the phrase “culturally congruent care,” which is the primary goal of transcultural nursing. Some of the basic tenets of transcultural nursing include an understanding of the following:

  • Cultural care diversity and universality, which refers to the differences and commonalities between different cultures.
  • Cultural and social structure dimensions, which include factors that include religion, social structures, and economics that set cultures apart.
  • Cultural care preservation or maintenance, which relates to nursing care activities that help specific cultures to retain the core cultural values related to healthcare.

Humanistic Nursing Theory

Also called the holistic approach, the Humanistic Theory looks to meld mental and emotional health with physical health. The theory is based on the idea that patients grow in healthy and creative ways. This approach to nursing, created by APRNs Josephine Paterson and Loretta Zderad, looks at each patient as an individual who needs personalized care.

Paterson and Zderad developed five phases of nursing, called phenomenological nursing, to accompany the Humanistic Theory:

  • Nurses prepare for “coming to know” or start investigating a case.
  • Nurses create an “I-You” relationship so they can understand their patients and use their intuitive knowledge.
  • Nurses apply scientific knowledge and begin a subject-object or “I-It” relationship, which allows nurses to reflect on their own experiences and put them into context for the current situation.
  • Nurses synthesize their knowledge to become a source of continually evolving information.
  • Nurses transform from the “many to the paradoxical one” to apply knowledge to a practical clinical setting.

Theory of Interpersonal Relations

The Interpersonal Relations Theory, developed in 1952 by Hildegard Peplau, focuses on the importance of the nurse-patient relationship. Nurses are able to prove better care to their patients if they build a strong relationship based on mutual respect. Peplau’s theory evolves in three phases:

  1. Orientation: The nurse-patient relationship is initiated by a patient’s needs. The nurse helps the patient get acquainted with the treatment process and answers questions.
  2. Working: As the nurse-patient relationship develops, the patient concentrates on expressing reactions to the illness and becomes an active participant in care.
  3. Termination: The nurse helps the patient follow through on care that has been provided and return to a normal productive life.

During the different phases, the nurses take on many roles, including resource person, teacher, surrogate, and counselor.

Need Theory

Developed by Virginia Henderson, an RN who was inducted into the American Nurses Association’s Hall of Fame, the nursing Need Theory focuses on a nurse’s role in assisting patients to maintain health, recover from injuries or achieve a peaceful death. In her work, she continually stressed nursing’s duty to focus on helping the patient rather than the doctor.

Henderson, considered the mother of modern nursing care, outlined four basic needs—psychological, physiological, social, and spiritual — that are required for patients to live independently:

  • Psychological needs including communicating and handling fears.
  • Physiological needs    including eating and sleeping.
  • Spiritual needs including worship and faith.
  • Social needs including recreational activities.

Among Henderson’s noted works was Nursing Research: Survey and Assessment and Nursing Studies Index, published in 1964 and 1972 respectively.

APRNs Using Nursing Theories

Healthcare professionals say APRNs who are pursuing careers as nurse educators must rely on nursing theories as a bedrock for daily practice on both a small and large scale, from the patient’s bedside to a community health nursing.

Alejandro, in her Nurse2018 journal article, said the influence of Magnet-recognized hospitals makes learning and applying educational theories in nursing crucial to achieving positive patient outcomes. “When our patients and their families, and even those in other healthcare professions ask why we do what we do, we can cite the nursing theories and theorists who guide us in our profession,” she said.

Duquesne University students who are studying to become nurse educators use theories to guide every aspect of their nursing education and career. When earning a master’s in nursing education online, students learn about educational theories in nursing as a framework for all future healthcare work. Duquesne University’s Master of Science in Nursing curriculum is designed to help registered nurses transition from clinical care to the classroom.

About Duquesne University’s Master of Science in Nursing Program

Students enrolled in Duquesne University’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program have an opportunity to specialize in nursing education and faculty roles. The program is structured for students to take a deep dive into clinical theory and research to be applied to classroom and clinical learning.

The Master of Science in Nursing Education curriculum is presented entirely online so nurses can continue their careers, personal life, and education goals simultaneously. U.S. News & World Report has recognized Duquesne University for excellence in education as a 2018 Best Online Graduate Nursing Program and best among Catholic universities in the nation.

Resources, Lessons Learned Through Nursing Theories, Nursing Theorists and Their Work – E-Book
Medical Archives, “Dorothea Orem Collection”, Dorothea Orem Self Care Deficit Nursing Theory Explained, MADELEINE LEININGER’S CULTURE CARE: DIVERSITY AND UNIVERSALITY THEORY, Phases of humanistic theory: analysis of applicability in research, Case Management of Substance-Induced Psychosis Using Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations, Integrating Nursing Theory and Process into Practice; Virginia’s Henderson Need Theory, Virginia Henderson, 98, Teacher of Nurses, Dies