Prescriptive Theory of Nursing


Nursing is a complex field of study with a need for practical and hands-on training as well as knowledge of theoretical and historical basis. One important theory in the study of nursing is the prescriptive theory of nursing, created by Ernestine Wiedenbach. Wiedenbach was an early leader in the field of nursing, most well-known for her theories and her work with maternal infant nursing. The prescriptive theory of nursing is a situation-producing theory, which considers how desired situations can occur, in this case, patient-centered nursing.

Elements of Nursing

  • Wiedenbach believed that there are four essential components to the field of nursing: nursing philosophy, a nurse's purpose, practice and the art. Wiedenbach explains nursing as the practice of identifying a patient's need for help and addressing that need accordingly. Within each aspect of nursing is a more detailed approach to patient care.

Philosophy of Nursing

  • A nurse's philosophy includes the attitudes and beliefs about life the nurse maintains and how these beliefs affect reality. Philosophy leads the nurse to act a certain way. Wiedenbach theorized that there are three vital aspects of nursing philosophy: reverence for life; respect for the dignity, worth, autonomy and individuality of each human being; and resolution to act on personally and professionally held beliefs.

Nursing Purpose

  • A nurse's purpose is what a particular nurse wishes to accomplish through his or her profession. It also includes the activities directed to the overall good of the patient. For example, a nurse may wish to help people with disabilities or bring babies safely into the world. The nurse's overall purpose is to direct the prescription of care for a patient.

Nursing Practice

  • The practice of nursing involves identifying a patient's need for help, administering the help that is required and determining whether or not the actions were helpful to the patient. Practice is also the act of performing nursing tasks related to patient care. Wiedenbach believed strongly in patient care.

Art of Nursing

  • Wiedenbach encouraged nurses to see nursing as an art. This art includes understanding patient concerns and needs and addressing them accordingly. This is to be distinguished from practice because you are not addressing a patient's need for help, but his or her overarching needs. The art of nursing also involves developing goals and actions to enhance the patient's ability to help his or herself.


  • Photo Credit nurse image by Vasiliy Koval from
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