Last week, Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing held a conference on, “Nursing Theory: A 50 Year Perspective, Past and Future”. Dr Peggy Chinn, PhD, RN, FAAN, the editor of Advances in Nursing Science and the Nurse Manifest Activism Project, shared her vision of the future in her keynote speech, “The Discipline of Nursing: Moving Forward Boldly”. Based on pioneering nursing theories first published approximately 50 years ago, Dr. Chinn’s speech discussed where we have come and also raises poignant suggestions, and words of caution, on how we move forward.
The keynote provided a summation of key terms. Terms like “nursology” reinforce the knowledge base of nursing as a discipline, science, and profession (Falk-Rafael, 2018). This name change does not represent a paradigm shift, but instead introduces an opportunity to reinforce nursing as a field of study, similar to biology, anthropology, and sociology, for example. Dr. Chinn’s introduction of the term “internalized nursogyny” was illuminating (Chinn, 2019). This is relevant in our current healthcare climate as a many new nurses are under pressure to complete what can feel like endless tasks, in often chronically understaffed hospital systems with little built-in nursing-specific education or support. These all too common environments of practice for nurses can make it seem like we are task masters, as opposed to professionals, resulting in skepticism of nursing knowledge. This misplacement of frustration on the profession as opposed to the structures that produce those environments can be difficult to interpret without strong nursing leadership and mentoring. The embrace of nursology as the foundation of our learning, and the leadership of nurses who can translate theory into practice, provides us with an opportunity for liberation and empowerment.
Dr. Chinn points out various hazards along the way to reaffirming nursing knowledge and theory, some of which are popularly upheld as “sacred cows” (Chinn, 2019). Namely, Dr. Chinn encourages nurse researchers to proceed with caution in the pursuit of projects that are deemed priorities purely because they are considered “fundable” and/or because they focus on the de rigueur subjects of “big data” and “evidence based practice”. There must be freedom to develop and appreciate new nursing knowledge, while being aware of “inter-disciplinary” research that may dilute the unique, patient-centered knowledge that nurse research contributes and generates.
Dr. Chinn asserts that we know where we come from as a profession and she encourages positive and genuine engagement with those who purport we are lost. While nurses may not be aware of it in the moment, they apply nursing theory by knowing and responding to patients and their families at the bedside. The beauty of Dr. Chinn’s keynote speech is her reminder that the theoretical underpinning of what we do is already clearly grounded in that early vanguard of nurse philosophers, and that our role is to be relentless advocates and protectors of that knowledge.
Vanessa Shields-Haas is a radical nurse and co-founder of www.radicalnurses.com. She advocates for harm reduction approaches to care and reproductive freedom for women in the deep South.
Chinn, P. L. (2019, March). Keynote Address: The Discipline of Nursing: Moving
Forward Boldly. Presented at “Nursing Theory: A 50 Year Perspective,
Past and Future,” Case Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton
School of Nursing. Retrieved from
Falk-Rafael, A. (2018, October 16). Why not nursology? [ Blog post]. Nursology. Retrieved from https://nursology.net/category/terminology/