nature of nursing

Debate concerning the nature of nursing

There has been debate concerning the nature of nursing over the years. People have been awakened to the actual nature of science and art since the 17th and 18th centuries, when the scientific revolution occurred. This awakening was known as the French Enlightenment (Contreras, 2013).

Throughout the scientific revolution, humans attempted to grasp, control, and reshape nature by logical, experimental means. There were revolutionaries in astronomy and physics at the time, and the findings of Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilee, and Copernicus provided a breakthrough. According to Jasmine (2009), science was understood in the 17th century through the technique of enquiry. During the enlightenment, a separation between science and art started to infiltrate into institutions of learning in the wake of modern professions. Knowledge came to be segregated into two major areas: sciences and arts. Each of the two areas of study generated diverse ways of thinking and of doing things and brought forth different kinds of knowledge. This paper endeavors to unravel the nature of nursing practices from the scientific or artistic point of view.

Nursing and science, art

In the days of Florence Nightingale, within the nursing field, nursing was considered an art that was characterized by feminine virtues and emphasized training as a female profession. From this point of view nursing as a science was out of question; scientific quest was a male venture (Lillis, LeMone, LeBon, & Lynn, 2010). According to Finfgeld-Connett (2008), nursing is considered both as a science and an art. The scientific facet of nursing focus on the analytical, logical processes applied in the nursing profession to find solutions to nursing problems by using the laid on principles. Regardless of the approach followed by a nurse, caring for other people is critical. Although much has been written concerning the scientific aspects of nursing, nursing as an art has not been well defined.

Definition of nursing as an art

Finfgeld-Connett (2008) observes that from nightingale's period, the occupation of nursing has elicited a much as regards to its definition. Initially, the definitions of nursing required that it be considered a fine art, which referred nursing to as a craft. However, heated debates regarding the authenticity of art against science have never led to an agreement as regards the definition of nursing. To appreciate nursing as an art, one should take to take into consideration the prepositions of the leaders who have recommended the emphasis of artistic natured of nursing. Those who have supported nursing as an art view a nurse as an average person who does things, reasons and feels.

From the linguistic point of view, an art can do some particular actions as a result of learning through experience or observation. Palos (2014) argues that the artistic nature of nursing emanate from the capacity of being human by both the nurse and their patients. The fundamental concept is the interaction between the nurse and their subject and having a productive relationship. The art of nursing is to form a beneficial relationship with other humans to comprehend the benefits of dependency of one another and to achieve what is expected of the nurse skillfully and in line with ethical expectations. The artistic nature of nursing entails forming of appropriate and successive communication, creativity, honesty, and empathy; to supplement mental and physical wellbeing of the patient. Finfgeld-Connett (2008) points out that nursing has been made to be increasingly technical thereby eroding some important human values such as love, empathy, and kindness. In the present situation of evidence-based practices, nursing outcomes and social expectations, the importance of human relationships, which are not measurable in many cases and the related emotions, are lost. Nurses should appreciate the meaning of nursing as an art. By comprehending the art of nursing, and not emphasize the scientific aspects only, there would be a predictive patient care. Indeed, by combining the artistic and the scientific aspect of nursing, more desirable results would be obtained.

Effective communication in the art of nursing

In the art of nursing, effective communication is essential. A nurse performs her functions by developing the most desirable physical and personal relationships with their subjects in a similar that a potter molds his clay. Due to the artistic nature of nursing, a nurse with poor communication skills may be able to meet the expected objectives of their profession. A nurse cannot do their job well by being just robotic. In a like manner that a sculptor paints their artworks, the nurse must take care of their patients with a cheerful heart and a face filled with a smile. To cultivate appropriate communication with others is an art (Jasmine, 2009).

Nursing as a science

Lillis et al. (2010) observe that early nursing theorists differentiated nursing from medicine by positing that while the scientific background of medicine emanated from the biological system, scientific arguments of nursing was based on behavioral systems. As nursing started being studied in universities, different perspective concerning nursing was conceived. Most of the school of thought was geared as separating nursing from medicine whereby nursing was taken to be a behavioral science (Emel, & Esin, 2015).

In these modern times, there has been a significant rise in the number of professions, each with a particular kind of knowledge. In the past nursing was not regarded as a profession as it was considered as a complement to the medical profession. Lillis et al. (2010) point out that the primary objective of advancing science is the increase in knowledge. This knowledge forms the basis for thinking and taking actions in connection to a certain discipline. In effect, scientific knowledge has been formulated and refined allowing concepts which were initially not understood to be addressed. Innovations in the science of nursing take a diverse realm from the traditional medicine context. Contributions towards increasing knowledge of nursing do not at all times aim and validation of facts despite the fact this happens sometimes. Jasmine (2009) postulates that nursing science has the objective of modifying and test the existing theory, find meaning and increase knowledge which enhances the profession of nursing. Nurses are now developing their art and practicing science in their day to day activities of their work. These creative and scientific qualities should be enhanced so as nurses should be able to illustrate their piratical skill but also express the nursing knowledge which was important in the development of the skills.

Scientific knowledge is based on facts and is understood quantitatively. Ethical knowing is based on morality and social values. Persona knowing is concerned with comprehending and enhancing the relationship between the nurse and the patient. If the nurse synthesizes the knowledge above, they can do their work comprehensively and with good results (Contreras, 2013). According to Lillis et al. (2010), nurses prove their professional acumen by increasing empirical knowledge; by developing or making use of research results to come up with nursing best practices.

Increasing knowledge requires evaluating data critically and presenting the research results, comprehending the results and assessing the implications before making important decisions as appertains to the nursing professions. The overall outcome is evidence-based nursing practice. Despite the fact that evidence-based practices depend much on empirical knowledge it has relationships with other spheres of knowledge. By analyzing evidence by use of clinical judgments together with an understanding of values more useful result is obtained. When an evidence-based nursing outcome is shared nationally, best practices bring forth better results as the nurse understands other methods of obtaining a better outcome and improve the recovery, emotional status of the patient. An example of an evidence-based outcome is where for several years in the past, nurses used to administer daily bath to patients. This practice continues until nurses realized that for the patients of advanced age, the skin becomes more irritated as a result of bathing too much. In effect this finding was standardized and currently bathing is done less frequently (Palos, 2014).


From the time of scientific revolution of the 17th and the 18th centuries, people have been awakened to as to the true nature of science and art. Occupations were grouped into two distinct groups; either art or science. In particular, nursing was considered a subordinate of medicine whereby nursing was seen as an art whereas medicine was seen as a science. However with the increase of knowledge, nursing has come to be appreciated as having the two realms, both science and art. Its artistic nature emanates from the capacity of being human by both the nurse and their patients; that humans need to interact share and communicate with others. The scientific nature of nursing is derived from the fact knowledge should be acquired empirically.


Contreras, Ibacache, V. (2013). Evidence of Art in Nursing. Enfermería Global, (30), 332.

Emel, R. N., & Esin, R. N. (2015). Opinions of nursing students on the art of nursing: a

qualitative study. International Journal of Caring Sciences, 8(2), 308.

Finfgeld‐Connett, D. (2008). Qualitative convergence of three nursing concepts: art of nursing,

presence and caring. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 63(5), 527-534.

Jasmine, T. (2009). Art, science, or both? Keeping the care in nursing. Nursing Clinics of North

America, 44(4), 415-421.

Lillis, C., LeMone, P., LeBon, M., & Lynn, P. (2010). Study guide for fundamentals of nursing:

The art and science of nursing care. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Palos, G. R. (2014). Care, compassion, and communication in professional nursing: Art, science,

or both. Clinical journal of oncology nursing, 18(2), 247.

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