Nursing Theories with Examples

A theory is a set of ideas that help us understand and describe something such as nursing. There are many different nursing theories with different purposes. We will explore some of the most popular nursing theories with examples.

Nursing Theories with Examples

Theories in nursing can be used to help nurses or other healthcare professionals make decisions about patient care, to provide a framework for understanding what is going on in a given situation, and to summarize what we know about a particular topic. Nursing is a complex profession and it’s important for nurses to have an understanding of various theories in order to meet the needs of their patients appropriately.

As nursing students, it is imperative to understand the key nursing theories that shape practice. The evidence-based practice relies on the application and use of nursing theories across different nursing fields. Here are the five most applied nursing theories you should know, and a few examples of how they are used.

What are the five most applied nursing theories?

1. Grand theory

Involve concepts from a broad perspective, which addresses what a nurse faces in their careers. The concepts most are concerned with the conceptual frameworks that define practice in multiple situations as well as the care environment. They also look at ways of examining different phenomena based on these perspectives. For instance, one of the grand theories applicable to research includes self-care theory (Goes, Lopes, Oliveira, Fonseca, & Marôco, 2020). ). Grand nursing further maintains wholeness and promotes adaptation through principles of conservation. Its assumptions include; human beings exceptionally respond, a nurse should devise a healing environment, and human beings sense, reflect, reason, and understand.

2. Self-care theory

The Self-care theory comprises self-care fundamentals, self-care therapy, self-care agency, and self-care. It asserts that; people are always distinct individuals; an individual’s cognizance of possible health complications is necessary for the encouragement of self-care; and developing self-care is a vital aspect of primary care prevention from poor health (Goes et al., 2020). It further theorizes that nursing is an action that demands the contribution of at least two persons while dependent care and self-care are health behaviors that are socially learned. Lastly, the assertions propose that individuals should remain independent in self-care and the rest of the family in need of health care (Goes et al., 2020).

Self–care theory is quickly applied to research due to its systematic nature – sticks to protocol. It is goal-oriented, reasonable, and unbiased based on observation and experimentation (Bermudez, 2020). It uses both statistical and quantitative methods of research where data can be numerically transformed for statistical use. Nurses accomplish the model’s goal by conserving energy, structure, individual and public integrity. Each person’s adaptation to response is unique, and thus, enabling patients to maintain their integrity within the realities of the environment.

3. Leininger’s Theory of Culture Care Diversity and Universality (TCCDU)

Leininger’s TCCDU can enable the nurse to understand the role that race, culture, and ethnicity shape and impacting the patient’s attitudes toward their health.

Strengths and Limits to Leininger’s Theory

Like any other nursing theory, Leininger’s theory has its fair share of strengths as well as weaknesses. Amongst its strengths are that when juxtaposed with other theories that focus on people, health, and nursing, Leininger emphasizes care as the core of nursing with the overriding assumption mainly informed by culture data. Its concepts and relationships appear as abstractions allowing it to be applied in different care settings, thus rendering the theory highly generalizable. The third and last of its strengths to be discussed within this paper’s scope is the theory dwells on the concept of culture in determining the provision of nursing care to specific patients, thus helping the nurse embrace more culturally sensitive care (Prosen, 2015). On the other hand, the theories and weaknesses include the likelihood of a problem in adopting or integrating the other person’s culture leading to culture shock on the nurse. The theory also does not give due attention to the disease, its symptoms, or treatment despite the initial factors that call for the patient to seek nursing care. Thirdly, the theory can also become a source of error in clinical decision-making due to misperception of outcomes amongst several other factors.

4. The transpersonal caring relationship model (TCRM)

Jean Watson’s transpersonal caring relationship model (TCRM) promotes healing and contributes to the patients’ and their families’ health and wellbeing. Through TCRM, individuals come to accept their current state and what they aspire to become. The resulting caring environment nurtures a safe and comfortable state even as it promotes the patient’s decision-making on matters touching on their health. The process of caring and curing has to remain united if the patient is to attain the desired optimal state of health and wellbeing. Similarly, the ten carative factors framework among them nurturing a culture of sensitivity to self and others, forming humanistic- altruistic value systems, instilling faith- hope, and use of problem-solving and decision making serves to underpin the practice of caring that would ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes. The nurse’s personal life and experiences become a valuable tool that offers situations that the nurse in context can imagine what the patient feels.

Strengths and Limits of Watson’s Theory

Proponents of Watson’s theory point out the strengths largely rest with its clarity, simplicity, and accessibility. Jean Watson’s development of THC concentrates on caring as constituting an essential part of nursing, where the theorist enables the nurse to understand the power lodged in human caring wholly. Clark (2016) argues that the theory’s clarity candidly states that patient care is a cosmic ordeal that initiates a profound healing process. According to Watson, the simplicity of the theory rests with the principle of the interconnectedness of humans, which once tapped enables the nurse and the patients to have an appropriate transpersonal relationship that both promotes their sense of security and put them at ease; the third strength is that the theory is easily accessible as echoed in the Caritas philosophy that cherishes and accords special attention to other human beings. Be that as it may, critics of Watson’s theory contend that its simplicity is more of a limitation since the empiricism of the theory may disappear to those who fail to conceptualize its tenets’ metaphysical and philosophical nature. In equal measure, critics point out that the middle range theory that is THC lacks research, thus diluting its importance. The fourth strength that these theorists emphasize is the theory’s reliability to childhood and how it can create a close and informal relationship between a parent

5. Florence Nightingale’s Environmental theory

This theory holds that the environment a person lives in, rather than their ailment, is the direct course of their problems (de Almeida et al., 2015; AliSher, 2019). Disease is a process of restoring good health (de Almeida et al., 2015). A nurse’s role is to provide a balancing environment necessary to give the patient energy to recover from illness (AliSher, 2019).

Florence Nightingale’s Environmental theory leads to positive patient outcomes by

  • Promoting the use of personal protective equipment, hand and foot hygiene in managing hospital-acquired infections.
  • Enabling prior identification of external factors associated with negative patient outcomes and initiation of prevention and protective mechanisms.
  • Promoting patient-practitioner relationships as nurses are viewed as the embodiment of morals.

The Florence Nightingale’s Environmental theory Benefits to Practice

Nursing Theories with Examples
Nursing Theories with Examples
  • Enhances disease and infection control
  • Enhances waste management in and around health facilities.
  • Addresses the importance of Noise management in ICUs

The Florence Nightingale’s Environmental theory Barriers to Application

  • Environmental factors necessary for application such as clean water, fresh air, proper drainage is not always available.
  • Collaborate and utilize available resources to provide safe drinking water and improve patients’ surroundings.
  • A high nurse-patient ratio can derail patient acuity
  • Increase the number of nurses
  • Provide incentives


Adams, L. Y. (2016). The conundrum of caring in nursing. International Journal of Caring Sciences9(1), 1.

Busher Betancourt, D. A. (2016). Madeleine Leininger and the transcultural theory of nursing. The Downtown Review2(1), 1.

Goldman, J. D., & Harte, F. M. (2020). The transition of care to prevent recurrence after acute coronary syndrome: the critical role of the primary care provider and pharmacist. Postgraduate Medicine, 1-7.

Prosen, M. (2015). Introducing transcultural nursing education: Implementation of transcultural nursing in the postgraduate nursing curriculum. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences174, 149-155.

Smith, M. C., & Parker, M. E. (2015). Nursing Theories and Nursing Practice (4ted.).  Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis

Sakallaris, B. R., Macallister, L., Voss, M., Smith, K., & Jonas, W. B. (2015). Optimal healing environments. Global Advances in Health and Medicine4(3), 40-45.

Sitzman, K., & Watson, J. (2018). Caring science, mindful practice: Implementing Watson’s human caring theory. Springer Publishing Company.

Clark, C. S. (2016). Watson’s human caring theory: Pertinent transpersonal and humanities concepts for educators. Humanities5(2), 21.

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