It is remarkable to consider how, a century after Nightingale defined nursing as the caring and skilled profession it must be, a need arose for another nurse theorist/leader to reaffirm these basic values. This is the achievement of Jean Watson who, beginning in the 1970s, emphasized the humane values innate to nursing, yet widely lost in the 20th century’s focus on expertise and technology.

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As Watson identified and promoted the carative factors supporting her philosophy of Human Caring Science, she modified and adapted these elements over time, yet the foundation has always remained in place, and it emphasizes a trusting and genuine relationship between the nurse and patient. In simple terms, Watson holds that the patients spiritual, personal, and emotional needs are as crucial to well-being as the physical, and the nurse’s authentic empathy translates to the patient to promote health in all ways. Evidence-based and skilled practice is essential (Chokwe, Wright, 2013, p. 2), but the greatest degree of expertise is inadequate if no caring exists within the nurse, and on the most visceral level.

The carative factors emphasized by Watson include practicing loving-kindness with the context of a caring consciousness, the nurse’s moving beyond ego-self, creating a healing environment, and allowing for miracles in healing which, when the theory is adopted, are by no means mysterious or even miraculous; they are the consequences when the entirety of the patient’s being is known and cared for by the nurse. In Watson’s thinking: “Both nursing and the teaching of nurses are careers that are life-giving and life-receiving, enabling lifelong learning and growth” (Ball, McGahee, 2013, p. 62).

All of this combines to reinforce that Jean Watson’s commitment and theory has established a necessary sense of the totality of the human being, as nurse and as patient, which in turn promotes the authentic and empathetic relationship crucial to all concerned. It is, in plain terms, a vitally needed reinforcement of the essential humanity within nursing initially stressed by Nightingale, and a theory of immense value.

  • Ball, J., & McGahee, T. W. (2013). Dedication of hands to nursing: A ceremony of caring. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 3(10), 58-63.
  • Chokwe, M. E., & Wright, S. C. (2013). Caring during clinical practice: Midwives’ perspective. Curationis, 36(1), 1-7.