How to Use Theory to Enhance Nursing Practices

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Since the twentieth century, nurses have striven to promote nursing theory as a knowledge base to guide concerted action. The hope has been to improve and refine patient care and to encourage the public to view nursing as a profession rather than an occupation. Nursing theory has expanded to include multiple levels of theory, and has become a scholarly conversation among many different theorists, but principles from a range of theoretical frameworks and models can be used to improve nursing practice by better understanding the roles and functions of nurses in medical care.


  1. Strive to individualize the care given to each patient based on differing needs, personalities and temperaments, according to Wiedenbach’s nursing theory, and encourage the nursing staff to identify these individualized needs through observation and understanding of patients.

  2. Use nursing practice to help patients to achieve independence in providing their own care, according to Henderson’s nursing theory.

  3. Present a flexible definition of nursing that allows the work of nurses to be determined by patient needs, in line with Abedellah’s nursing theory.

  4. Consider caring as a theoretical concept rather than simply a role that nurses fill, using Watson’s nursing theory to understand caring as a universal social phenomenon.

  5. Avoid the assumption that caring, despite being a universal phenomenon, is understood in the same way by all patients. According to transcultural nursing theory, nurses must consider patients' cultural backgrounds in order to understand their care needs and how they will perceive and respond to care.

  6. Introduce varying levels of compensation for patient needs and education that will allow patients to care for themselves in daily nursing practice, using the levels of compensation provided by Orem’s nursing theory.

  7. View the work of nurses as conservation of client energy, personal integrity, structural integrity and social integrity, according to Levine’s nursing theory, in order to streamline efficient nursing practice.

  8. Understand nursing practice as encompassing several phases of relationships with patients, as well as several nursing roles, as proposed by Peplau. The roles include stranger, resource, teacher, leader, surrogate and counselor.

  9. Use Travelbee’s nursing theory of therapeutic human relationships to improve the care provided by nurses, focusing on fostering quality relationships with patients.

  10. Encourage the overall health of patients using the health promotion model developed by Pender, which places general health promotion above specific disease prevention in terms of nursing practice.

  11. Increase patient satisfaction, which has been linked to nurses’ caring in Duffy’s quality-caring nursing theory, by promoting cohesive teamwork and positive communication among nurses.

  12. Take into account both the home care and professional care received by patients when administering nursing practice, and strive to understand the influences of economic, political and legal, religious, social, technological and educational factors using transcultural nursing theory.

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