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Historical Development of Nursing

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Historical Development of Nursing Timeline

Professional nursing practice is based on nursing science. Theory development provides structure and directs the decision- making process of nursing practice. New knowledge and discoveries from theory, research, and practice keep the science of nursing alive and developing. The development of theory in nursing began with the writings of Florence Nightingale and continues to the present day.

Consider the following historical development of nursing science from leading theories and models:

Before Nightingale

Person. Environment. Health. Nursing. These four meta-paradigms are common concepts found in nursing. They are accepted within the nursing profession and used in practice and care planning techniques unique to nursing itself. Most theorists use these concepts in developing theory.


Nightingale's (1859/1992) Notes on nursing demonstrates the first nursing theory and has directed nursing practice since. Nightingale's was concerned with the most basic needs of humans and all aspects of their environment. Nightingale's strong spiritual beliefs guided her teachings as she described a "presence higher than human," that laid out the physical laws of the world and now it was time for human's to take responsibility to improve human conditions (Macrae, 1995). Nightingale was ahead of her time. Her dedicated work and service laid the foundation for nursing work today. In the 1880s Nightingale began to write that it would take, "100 to 150 years before educated and experienced nurses would arrive to change the healthcare system" (Dossey & Keegan, 2008, p. 6). We are 21st-century Nightingales with years of nursing theory to guide what we do. By analyzing and applying these practices in education and day- to -day nursing we can only strengthen our nursing profession.

Interactive Models (1950s)

Peplau (1952): taught the importance of the relationship between the nurse and the patient. Peplau's theory "has been used extensively in nursing practice, particularly in mental health and psychiatric nursing. And has allowed nursing to move away from 'doing to' to 'doing with' clients" (McQuiston & Webb, 1995, p. 501).

Henderson (1955): taught a theory of nursing that belongs under the interactive model. She had 14 areas of nursing care, based on the physical, psychological, spiritual/moral, and sociological aspects of an individual (Henderson, 1966). Henderson's work is also commonly used by psychologists and psychiatrists as well as nurses in mental health clinical settings.

Henderson and Peplau provide a framework for understanding patients' reactions to illnesses, births, deaths, and traumatic events. Other nurse theorists recognized in this classification of theory are Dorothea Orem (1980, 1985) and Faye Abedellah (1960).

Systems Models (1970s)

Neuman (1972, 1974): developed the Neuman Systems Model as a method to teach nursing students.

Roy (1976): developed the Adaptation Model and defines "adaptation as a positive response that promotes survival, growth, reproduction and mastery" (Roy, 1997, p. 43).

Johnson (1980): developed



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