Apr 30, 2020 in Nursing

Watson’s Theory of Human Caring


The role of nursing theories is of utmost importance because these unique and useful frameworks ensure an excellent opportunity to healthcare professionals to generate new nursing knowledge, improve health outcomes of patients, and recognize a meaningful contribution of nurses to the healthcare services. Jean Watson’s theory of human caring is fundamental because it has a positive impact on the nursing practice. According to the nature of this nursing theory, effective caring contributes to physical health and psychological well-being of patients. The current paper aims to describe the background information about the researcher who developed the theory, review and assess the major concepts of the theory and close interrelationships among these concepts, and evaluate the clarity and consistency of the theory of caring. Moreover, much emphasis will be placed on applicability and influence of the theory of caring on the nursing practice.

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Background Information about Jean Watson

Jean Watson is a recognized nurse theorist, researcher, and professor in the sphere of nursing who is famous for her theory of human caring. She is one of the most prominent and influential leaders of the American Academy of Nursing, and served for a relatively long period of time as the head of the National League for Nursing, one of the leading and most reputable education membership associations on the territory of the USA that contributes to faculty growth and development, numerous networking opportunities, testing services, and many other processes. It is critically important to emphasize that the researcher founded, developed, and, currently directs the Watson Caring Science Institute that is primarily purposed to advance, develop, and expand philosophies and practices that focus on human caring. This famous institution develops a variety of programs and hires effective visionary leaders who possess enough knowledge and experience to address a variety of caring needs on local, national, and international levels. Dr. Jean Watson has established this institution in order to provide healing and health services to all people in different parts of the globe. Clinical nurses in different parts of the globe extensively utilize her published works associated with human caring with the purpose to manage a variety of healing practices for hospitals and many other health care facilities.

At present, Jean Watson is the author and coauthor of approximately 20 books on caring, and her works range from traditional philosophies on caring to new postmodern philosophies that view nursing as a sacred and autonomous science. In general, her education and degrees in nursing, psychology, and counseling are the main factors that have impacted the theory development. Jean Watson’s theory of caring was developed in 1979 and originally presented in the book Nursing: The Philosophy and Science of Caring. Her second successful book Nursing: Human Science and Human Care focuses on metaphysical and spiritual evolution of the phenomenon of care.

According to the information presented at the official website of Watson Caring Science Institute, Jean Watson investigated caring as the heart of nursing and her entire life career was, is, and will be devoted to the phenomena and processes associated with human caring as well as the link among experiences, feelings, and emotions of patients and healthcare professionals. The professor claims that she understood the role and significance of her own work from another perspective after she had a chance to assess the role of human caring from her own personal experience. She effectively utilizes and shares her knowledge, practical experiences, wisdom, and courage in order to assist experts in the sphere of health care, including nurses, educators, and other nursing employees in their long and challenging caring-healing journey.

Jean Watson claims that she made a decision to develop this theory in the sphere of nursing between 1975 and 1979 while she was a teacher at the University of Colorado because this nursing framework is the result of her own views and perceptions combined with her several doctoral studies in the spheres of education and social psychology. The author of the theory emphasizes that her close involvement with an integrated curriculum in the sphere of nursing have influenced and boosted the theory development as well.

Researchers who explore Watson’s theory of caring claim that this theory is a successful attempt of Jean Watson to bring meaning to nursing as an autonomous discipline and dominant profession in the field of healthcare. According to the estimations of Alligood, the nature, significance, and impact of Watson’s nursing theory on human caring and nursing are effective as it encompasses a variety of nursing values, knowledge, practices, and, finally, philosophies. Care and healing should be viewed as two fundamental phenomena of concern addressed by this comprehensive and functional theory. Moreover, one of the most significant objectives of this dynamic theory is to prove that nursing should be provided by a unique disciplinary as well as recognized professional and scientific standing. Thus, this nursing theory promotes the idea that nursing should be perceived and understood as a caring and sacred science that is primarily purposed to contribute to health and well-being of patients.

Theory Description

Researchers who explore Watson’s theory of human caring claim that this nursing theory that encompasses a set of interrelated concepts relies on deductive reasoning by ensuring a well-developed framework for strategic and effective decision-making processes. The grand theory developed by Jean Watson offers a variety of strategies and tactics that ensure a chance to utilize this model in the nursing practice. This nursing theory relies on deductive reasoning because, unlike inductive reasoning, it starts with the general premise and gradually leads to the specific deduction.

Watson’s theory of caring encompasses several core conceptual elements, especially human caring, transpersonal caring moments, healing, caring consciousness, and many others. Therefore, in her science of caring, Jean Watson not only investigates the notion of caring, but also explores how it is related to persons, environment, health, and the sphere of nursing. It is critically important to emphasize that the author of the theory mainly focuses on tight collaboration of persons and nurses, and concentrates on “transpersonal” caring moments that have positive impacts on both patients and health care professionals. In addition, she emphasizes on significance of healthy, stimulating, and comfortable environment that contributes to physical and psychological well-being of patients.

According to the estimations of the author of this nursing theory, the term “caring” should be defined as the ethical and moral ideal in the sphere of nursing that should be strengthened by a variety of interpersonal and humanistic qualities. The researcher stresses that the concept of caring is very complex and multidimensional as it encompasses numerous skills and characteristics associated with empathy, transparent communication, clinical competence, well-developed inter-professional skills, and technical proficiency. Jean Watson defines the term “caring science” as a broad philosophical-ethical-epistemic field of study that is directly linked to many other fields of science except nursing. According to her early scientific writings, her theory encompasses ten main carative factors or components that serve as the main foundation or framework for science and practice in the field of nursing, especially formation of a rich humanistic and altruistic system of values, instillation of hope and faith, cultivation of sensitivity to patients, maintenance of collaborative relationships, accumulation of positive feelings, application of effective problem-solving skills, enhancement of effective teaching and learning practices, creation of collaborative and spiritual environment, and assistance in human need. In general, carative factors, transpersonal caring relationships, and, finally, caring moments are the most important conceptual elements used by Jean Watson in this original theory. The author of the theory promotes the idea that transpersonal caring relationship is the core of the nursing profession because it promotes authenticity, strengthens the significance of healing and wholeness, motivates nurses to connect with their patients and maintain authentic relations and moral commitment.

The term “caring moment” that is also commonly referred to as caring occasion usually occurs when nurses and patients discuss and share their unique life histories in their interactions and transactions. Caring moments ensure a unique chance to healthcare professionals and patients to decide how to behave and act in the processes of interactions. Jean Watson, the author of this original nursing theory, is consistent in the use of the core concepts and other fundamental terms because she provides detailed and comprehensive explanations of definitions of the main concepts.

The researcher defines and describes the major concepts of this nursing theory in an explicit way because they are fully, precisely, and clearly articulated. Explicit definition of core concepts is effective while explaining this complex nursing theory as it enables the researcher to eliminate confusion, misunderstanding, and ambiguities. Moreover, the conceptual framework developed by Jean Watson includes a variety of bright examples to demonstrate how caring and healing are associated with the sphere of nursing. For instance, Watson emphasizes that caring and healing are integral parts of the nursing practice because these factors turn nursing into a distinct discipline and autonomous profession. All concepts described and assessed in Watson’s theory of human caring are interdependent as the author provides convincing evidence that healing and caring practices are integral components of the nursing discipline and profession. In other words, Jean Watson indicates that health care professionals are effective leaders, peacemakers, role-models, and decision-makers who are effectively and efficiently practicing professional human caring for self and other people.

Evaluation of Watson’s Theory of Human Caring

The primary mission of Watson’s theory of human caring is to contribute to health and well-being of people. Moreover, this original nursing theory encompasses a variety of values and beliefs that serve as a reliable and effective guide for nurses who bear the responsibility for promotion of health and well-being of nurses, prevention and treatment of threatening diseases, provision of rehabilitation services, evaluation, and, finally, research. For Jane Watson, the most sacred and important purpose for which the theory of human caring is created is to enhance and contribute to understanding of caring and its significance in nursing. Watson’s theory of human caring promotes the assumption that the role of caring and healing in nursing is fundamental because nurses should meet the needs of their patients. Taking into account the claims of Jean Watson, supportive listening, comfort, honesty, patience, ethical responsibility, sensitivity, and empathy are the most effective and influential values, beliefs, and behaviors that should be followed by nurses while delivering high-quality services to patients.

Jean Watson’s theory of human caring includes accurate and detailed descriptions of four key metaparadigm concepts, including human being, environment, health, and nursing or, in other words, nursing practice. According to the estimations of critics who explore and evaluate nursing theories, Jean Watson’s theory of human caring can best be described and evaluated in terms of the nursing metaparadigm. Jean Watson describes nursing as an autonomous discipline and profession that is directly linked to promoting health, preventing diseases, caring for the sick, and contributing to physical health and psychological well-being of people. Therefore, the researcher assures that holistic health care plays a predominant role in the processes of caring. The author of the theory promotes the idea that nursing as a human science is influenced and shaped by a variety of professional, personal, and scientific types of human transactions. According to Watson, the term “human being” denotes a valued individual that should be cared for, valued, respected, supported, nurtured, and, finally, understood. In addition, the author of the grand theory promotes the idea that person is a functioning whole that has a variety of biological, psychological, psychosocial, and interpersonal needs. Watson is a proponent of the idea that every person consists of three main metaparadigms, including mind, body, and soul. Because of this reason, every person should be perceived as a physical and spiritual being that may be influenced by external pressures and environments.

Jean Watson, a recognized and successful American nurse theorist, provides evidence that the concept of environment should be analyzed and assessed in more abstract terms. According to her viewpoints, environments should be more transformative and flexible in nature. Watson notes that caring and healing processes should be conducted in integrated and comfortable environments maintained and promoted by nurses. Health care professionals should actively participate in creating developmental, collaborative, and protective environments which should be primarily purposed to contribute to health and well-being of every patient. The role of environment is of utmost importance because it has the power to influence and shape both patients and professionals in the sphere of health care within an effective caring-haling model. Finally, Jean Watson stresses that health should be perceived holistically and understood as a combination of physical, social, mental, and, finally, spiritual self, with all these components effectively coexisting together in harmony in order to function to the full capacity. Despite nurses contribute to health of patients, Watsons claims that health is perceived by patients and influenced by their unique life experiences. Finally, the researcher adds that health is closely associated with an extremely high level of physical, mental, and, finally, social daily functioning and absence of illnesses.

Watson’s theory of human caring is characterized by such common features as clarity, internal consistency, simplicity, and lucidity. This theory of human caring meets the criterion of clarity because the relationships between patients and healthcare professionals are described and assessed in a strong and comprehensive manner. In order to prove the significance of caring in the sphere of nursing, the author of the theory decides to stratify it. After having read the main ideas promoted by the theory, it is possible to conclude that the author provides convincing evidence that care is the dominant force that results in a profound healing process for every patient. Moreover, clarity, simplicity, and consistency of this grand theory ensure an excellent opportunity to understand the main concepts presented in the nursing theory. Despite the concept of caring is complex and multidimensional, Watson’s theory of human caring is easy to follow and understand as the author describes in details every new term and concept. Finally, such interdependent features as harmony, ability to test the theory, accuracy also characterize this theory, and make it applicable to usage in the nursing practice.

Application of Watson’s Theory of Human Caring

Because caring is considered to be one of the most significant and influential concepts for the nursing profession, it has the power to influence and shape the nursing practice. Researchers who investigate the significance of Jean Watson’s theory and its extensive application indicate that this grand theory is used in the nursing because it provides nursing practice with a well-developed framework which transforms nursing into an autonomous, independent, and credible profession. Watson’s theory of human caring effectively guides nursing actions and teaches nurses to understand their critical role before applying multiple nursing processes. The core mission of this genuine nursing theory is to maintain healthy and caring relationships with every patient, express unconditional acceptance and genuine commitment, rely on holistic treatment approaches, and improve health and well-being through health and professional interventions.

According to the research results, Watson’s theory of human caring is extensively used as an effective guide for integrating theory and evidence in the area associated with pain in children. Thus, Watson’s theory of human caring provides the core principles that underpin nursing practice and assist in generation of further knowledge. Except nursing practice, this grand theory is applicable to three other areas of nursing, including education, informatics, and administration.


In conclusions, the role of nursing theories is of paramount importance as it is applicable to the nursing practice. Despite nursing theories are widely criticized due to lack of agreements among researchers, these theories provide a strong theoretical basis for numerous specific situations. Jean Watson’s theory is significant as this complex, multidimensional, and multilayered theory motivates and encourages nurses to engage in spiritual practices, manifest kindness and concern, promote faith and hope, create collaborating and trusting atmosphere, encourage patients to share their emotions and internal feelings, meet the basic existential and spiritual needs of every patient, and create an environment that is protective and supportive. Watson’s theory of human caring may be applied in different areas of nursing, including practice, administration, informatics, and education as it provides evidence that high level of caring, genuine commitment, professionalism, and effective healing practices are the heart of nursing as an autonomous and respectful profession.


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