While the efforts to establish nursing as a science have been numerous, some scholars still associate nursing with art or humanistic science. Shaw (1907) saw nursing as an art, whereas Mother Olivia Gowan (1943) wrote that nursing was both an art and a science. Madeleine Leininger (1978) thought that nursing was “a learned humanistic art and science,” while Rogers (1970) considered nursing a “a humanistic science dedicated to compassionate concern for maintaining and promoting health, preventing illness, and caring for and rehabilitating the sick and the disabled” (in Basavanthappa, p.7 ). Today, however, the view of nursing as a science (basic or empirical) has been widely supported. This paper argues that nursing is a science and supports the argument with relevant explanations.

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First of all, nursing is a science, because the discipline of nursing fits well into the definitions of science. In particular, one of the definitions of science is “an intellectual process using all available mental and physical resources to better understand, explain, quantitate, and predict normal as well as unusual natural phenomena” (Thomas, 1997 in Winters & Ballou, 2003, p. 534). In this broad sense, nursing falls into the category of science with its both empirical (quantitative and qualitative) and philosophical methods. In this regard, nursing was defined as a basic science “whose phenomenon of concern is unitary human beings in mutual process with their environments” (Rogers, 1970) and as an empirically oriented science given the variety of developing empirical methods and focus on positivism of late (Kim, 2010).

Next, that nursing is science is supported by the concept of research traditions and a theory of historical turns proposed by Laudan (1996). According to Laudan (1996), a theorist who developed the concept of research traditions, a science has to possess research traditions as a broadly based foundation of multiple theories as well as a way of viewing a set of fundamental problems in a discipline. These research traditions are ripe with methodologies that are used to investigate various problems. As for the historical turn, he said that a historical turns includes “looking back at the history of science and examining examples of good science.” Whereas some scholars claim that nursing cannot be considered a science due to a lack of research traditions or historical turn (Edwards, 1999 in Winters & Ballou, 2003), their argument can be refuted by distinguishing the schools of thoughts in nursing. Meleis (1997 in Winters & Ballou, 2003), for example, identified three schools of thought in nursing in her research focused on the period of nursing development between 1950 and 1970.

These are interaction theorists, needs theorists, and outcome theorists. The emergence of these three schools of thought is a reflection of a similar historical turn to Ladan’s (Winters & Ballou, 2003). They signify the development of nursing as an evolutionary philosophical process. The schools of thought were both successful theories and philosophical basics of the nursing science: needs theorists researched nurses’ problem-solving and functions (i.e. “the ontological who”), “interactionists” researched illness as a human experience as well as process in interactions between nurses and patients (i.e. “the ontological how”), and outcomes theorists researched energy, outcomes, and homeostasis of care (i.e. “the ontological why”). This example shows that nursing is a science ripe with research traditions and characterized by a historical turn in its development.

In summary, that nursing is a science is supported by the methods of scientific inquiry adopted by nursing researchers, the development of nursing as both as a basic and empirical science, and its evolutionary tradition with the historical turn and research traditions. Therefore, on the current level of its development, nursing should be considered a science.