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Watson Nursing Theory

Nurse theorist Jean Watson was born in West Virginia and was educated at BSN, University of Colorado, 1964; MS, University of Colorado, 1966; PhD, University of Colorado, 1973. Dr. Jean Watson is Distinguished Professor of Nursing and holds an endowed Chair in Caring Science at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
She is founder of the original Center for Human Caring in Colorado and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. She previously served as Dean of Nursing at the University Health Sciences Center and is a Past President of the
National League for Nursing.

Dr. Watson has earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing and psychiatric-mental health nursing and holds her PhD in educational psychology and counseling. She is a widely published author and recipient of several awards and honors, including an international Kellogg Fellowship in Australia, a Fulbright Research Award in Sweden and six (6) Honorary Doctoral Degrees, including 3 International Honorary Doctorates (Sweden, United Kingdom, Quebec, Canada).

The foundation of Jean Watson’s theory of nursing was published in 1979 in nursing: “The philosophy and science of caring” In 1988, her theory was published in “nursing: human science and human care”. Watson believes that the main focus in nursing is on carative factors. She believes that for nurses to develop humanistic philosophies and value system, a strong liberal arts background is necessary. This philosophy and value system provide a solid foundation for the science of caring. A humanistic value system thus under grids her construction of the science of caring. She asserts that the caring stance that nursing has always held is being threatened by the tasks and technology demands of the curative factors.
The seven assumptions

Watson proposes even assumptions about the science of caring. The basic assumptions are:
Caring can be effectively demonstrated and practiced only interpersonally.
Caring consists of carative factors that result in the satisfaction of certain human needs.
Effective caring promotes health and individual or family growth.
Caring responses accept person not only as he or she is now but as what he or she may become.
A caring environment is one that offers the development of potential while allowing the person to choose the best action for himself or herself at a given point in time.
Caring is more “healthogenic” than is curing. A science of caring is complementary to the science of curing.
The practice of caring is central to nursing.
The ten primary carative factors

The structure for the science of caring is built upon ten carative factors.
These are:

The formation of a humanistic- altruistic system of values.
The installation of faith-hope.
The cultivation of sensitivity to one’s self and to others.
The development of a helping-trust relationship
The promotion and acceptance of the expression of positive and negative feelings.
The systematic use of the scientific problem-solving method for decision making
The promotion of interpersonal teaching-learning.
The provision for a supportive, protective and /or corrective mental, physical, socio-cultural and spiritual environment.
Assistance with the gratification of human needs.
The allowance for existential-phenomenological forces.


1. Human being/person

She adopts a view of the human being as: “a valued person in and of him or herself to be cared for, respected, nurtured, understood and assisted; ingeneral a philosophical view of a person as a fully functional integrated self. He, human is viewed as greater than and different from, the sum of his or her parts”.

2. Health

Watson believes that there are other factors that are needed to be included in the WHO definition of health. She adds the following three elements:
A high level of overall physical, mental and social functioning
A general adaptive-maintenance level of daily functioning
The absence of illness (or the presence of efforts that leads its absence)

3. Environment/society

According to Watson caring (and nursing) has existed in every society. A caring attitude is not transmitted from generation to generation. It is transmitted by the culture of the profession as a unique way of coping with its environment.

4. Nursing

According to Watson “nursing is concerned with promoting health, preventing illness, caring for the sick and restoring health”.
It focuses on health promotion and treatment of disease. She believes that holistic health care is central to the practice of caring in nursing.
She defines nursing as…..
"A human science of persons and human health-illness experiences that are mediated by professional, personal, scientific, esthetic and ethical human transactions”.

Tomey, A.M. & Alligood, M. (2006). Nursing Theory Utilization and Application; 3rd Edition. Missouri, USA: Mosby, Inc. p. 103

Watson, J. (1985). Nursing: Human Science and Human Care. Connecticut, USA: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Nursing Care Plan


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