Nursing is a science that requires specific knowledge and skills, which are based on the results of researches and reliable data. It uses the heritage of information and techniques derived from the humanities, behavioral, physical, and biological sciences as well as from the management, educational, and leadership theories. Nursing activity gradually transformed into a science based on theoretical knowledge, practical experience, scientific judgment, and critical thinking. Florence Nightingale expressed the firm conviction that the above-mentioned profession was different from medical practice and required special knowledge.
Nursing theories are helpful tools in educational planning and clinical training. The understanding of the general principals of a certain nursing theory allows teachers to apply this information to various learning situations.
Since theory is a set of related propositions, it may help provide the explanation of the phenomenon. This paper aims to analyze the importance of Florence Nightingale’s environmental theory to the nursing profession as well as summarize its key concepts and relationships between them.
Importance of Nursing Theory
Nursing is a unique system in the healthcare industry that has its own framework of scientific expertise and methods of its practical application. The literature suggests that theoretical knowledge forms the basis of rational of the nursing practice. The specific theories were developed with the aim to explain the phenomenon of nursing. The study of nursing theory is included in a master program since, like any other theory, it serves to define the basic differences between nursing and other disciplines. As a rule, the nursing theories tend to describe, interpret, predict, and control the desired results in the nursing practice. The conceptual model of nursing includes four paradigms: environment, patient, nursing itself, and health. All of them were designed as a guide for the masters’ curricula or practices. Although these concepts are present in all nursing theories, their interpretations and ways of interaction with each other vary significantly.
Nursing theory is useful to the profession. It helps students to become well aware of the conceptual nursing models. It also teaches them to identify the facts found in the practice or scientific theory, determine the systems of values, i.e., the beliefs that underlie the profession and are similar in all models and conceptual foundations, and understand the key elements that characterize the purpose of nursing. Theories reflect the existing reality and make it possible to compare different concepts of nursing. They help the students to deepen in the philosophy in order to find the answers to the fundamental questions related to the nursing profession including their duties, skills, and values.
The nursing theory can be used to separate this profession from the other healthcare occupations. It is a corner stone of the nursing profession. Theories provide guidelines and directions for the education, research, and structuring of the nursing practice. What is more, they allow the nurses to evaluate and assess their skillfulness in care as well as provide the rationale behind valid and reliable data about the health conditions of the patients that are important in the decision-making and implementation of various solutions. Furthermore, nursing theory helps create a nursing-specific terminology to communicate with colleagues. Any theory determines the purpose of nursing, interprets the typical situations of care, highlights what kind of information should a nurse has and which approaches and strategies for action should be used. Nightingale’s theory is a good example of it since helps to distinguish nurses from the other caregivers. According to it, nurses, unlike doctors, have to take care of patients’ environment, which includes light, personal clearness, and food among others. Doctors, in turn, assess patients’ state according to these paradigms. Therefore, the nurses broaden their scope of activity, unlike other healthcare providers. In addition, this theory addresses ethical and emotional considerations that give nurses a certain set of rewards. Finally, it defines nursing independent functions.
Summary of Florence Nightingale’s Environmental Theory
Florence Nightingale was the first theorist who identified the role and significance of nurses in healthcare settings and society as a whole. She was the founder of nursing theories and introduced her environmental theory in 1859. Until now, different authors in numerous states publish it since the proposed theory is still important and relevant nowadays. It was selected in order to find its potential use within nursing education. Nightingale’s theory helps students understand that they should rely on the environmental factors in their practice. Meanwhile, nurses had realized that healthcare could not be effective without environmental concerns. She introduced the philosophical foundation of the nursing profession, which provided an opportunity for the emergence and evolution of the modern theories. She viewed nursing as a high art and religious vocation considering that a nurse could only be a woman who did not need special education. She stressed on the fact that it was necessary to treat a sick person, not his or her disease. Nightingale gave a detailed description of 13 canons of environment, which included light, ventilation, bed and bedding, noise, cleanliness of rooms/walls, personal cleanliness, and food taking.
According to her theory, the environment was seen as the most important factor influencing livelihood and human health. Florence Nightingale believed that patient’s condition could be improved by acting on the surroundings, i.e., providing fresh air, heat, light, nutrition, and appropriate hygiene. Thus, educational programs should focus on the ability of nursing students to arrange such environment. Her assumptions were based on the poor state of medicine in those times; however, her principles are still popular today.
Nightingale’s theory is focused on four major concepts: person, health, environment, and nursing profession. A person is viewed as the one who receives the nursing care. She attempted to see a patient within his or her social environment that affected the living conditions and conceptualized an individual holistically. In relation to health, Nightingale believed that a person should improve his/her health using all available resources. She stated that the nature was the only element that could cure an individual. Regarding the physical environment, Nightingale claimed that it included light, ventilation and warming, health of houses, noise, cleanliness of rooms and walls, bed and bedding, personal tidiness, food and its quality. Besides physical environment, the social and psychological ones also affected the patients. She viewed a nursing profession from two perspectives. The first one is a general nursing, in which a specialist carries her activities according to Nightingale’s 13 canons, and the second one is related to proper nursing, which requires well-educated individuals in the science and art of nursing.
Application of the Theory to Professional Nursing Practice
This theory was selected since it has had a great impact on nursing education and brought to the fore the interpersonal aspect of nursing and patient care. Nightingale’s assumption that a nurse might possess manipulation techniques may encourage educators to develop programs based on her beliefs that can help specialists to make proper solutions in the healthcare settings. Florence Nightingale’s environmental theory made a great contribution to the nursing profession. Her main legacy was the organization of training of middle and junior medical staff as well as reorganization of the teaching personnel. Nightingale believed that nurses should be educated by their qualified colleagues. Therefore, the selected theory has the potential use since it may contribute to the students’ education, leadership, informatics and healthcare policy knowledge, and nurse practice.
Nowadays, Nightingale’s ideas are introduced in the teaching process for the sake of terminology that characterizes the basic elements of nursing. The theory has become more advanced than before. According to Aliakbari et al., master education programs based on nursing theories prepare students for appropriate leadership and critical activities within complex healthcare systems including educational and organizational frameworks.
Environmental theory contributed to nurses’ ability to meet the environmental challenges mentioned above. Since then, the educators modify their programs according to such environmental requirements as fresh air, light, sufficient food, and efficient drainage. Despite the introduction of antibiotics, these assumptions remain relevant in the modern healthcare environment. Thus, nursing education aims to help the specialists to work in all sectors of the healthcare system and deliver a range of health-related services along with the concern of proper environment. These assumptions allow nursing leaders to fulfill their roles including patient care coordination, clinical care, research, and education.
Understanding nursing theory helps the specialists to handle big amount of data that can assist in providing the best possible care for clients. Working in healthcare facilities, they face complex networks and information technologies with multiple clinical, claims, and financial systems. Using the environmental theory by Florence Nightingale, nurses learn to integrate data and analyze them in order to understand the outcomes of their work. Today, informatics supports clinical decisions in providing right and timely care for patients. Data management helps the healthcare providers to optimize the outcomes, improve care quality, and reduce healthcare costs.
Basing on the environmental theory, the educators provide health promotion programs, continuing education, and other activities relevant to the current healthcare structure. Regarding educational facilities, nurses are responsible for the enhancement of health training. They use nursing theories in relation to the patients both at the individual and community levels. Thus, Nightingale’s environmental theory is being utilized not only for understanding and learning new things but also for constructive communication, problem solving, emotions control, achievement of changes in the health habits, and behavioral development. It helps the nurse practitioners to apply their knowledge base and clinical competences in practice.
Florence Nightingale’s environmental theory can be applicable to the staff development. Its members have to understand that patients’ conditions may depend not only on the treatment, diagnosis, and medicines but also on the environment. Therefore, the staff may have special training to learn to pay more attention to the physical, social, and psychological environment of the patients. Thus, the considerations concerning ventilation, provision of food, and room cleanliness may acquire greater significance in their everyday practice. The theory generates the understanding that the misbalance of at least one of 13 factors leads to the rising consumption of patient’s energy that affects his or her condition and delays healing. Thus, in my practice, I was instructed that individuals with COPD are to save energy because they have troubles with breathing. Thanks to the theory, I understand that by modifying their energy, at least, a bit I could improve their conditions.
Another application of Nightingale’s theory can be found in educational programs. Thus, the teachers may apply environmental research and common logic identifying that nursing is separate and distinct from medicine, and it requires a special approach. Master educational programs in this sphere may include environmental health policy advocacy to enhance the understanding of the importance of the environment to health organizations as well as specific environmental risks for patients. Nursing programs may consider every aspect of the environment.
Nursing theories contribute to the profession development assisting the specialists in providing the best care for their patients. Florence Nightingale’s theory emphasizes the importance of the physical environment in the nursing care. It is widely applied in education in order to help to acquire new knowledge, manage problem solving and emotional control, change the health habits, and achieve behavioral development. This theory contributes to the nurses’ ability to modify patients’ environment that may improve their conditions. Hence, it is still applicable today in education and is used in different programs. Due to this assignment, I have found the new perspectives where I could apply that theory in my nursing practice. Thus, I will pay more attention to the everyday healthcare environment since it greatly affects patients’ conditions. In addition, I will educate them on how to adhere to the standards based on Florence Nightingale’s theory.