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The Philosophy of Nursing
Cassandra Gallagher
Old Dominion University


The Philosophy of Nursing
There are many different reasons why one may choose to pursue nursing. It takes a hard
working, dedicated individual to stay on this path. Each person has their own unique philosophy
that impacted the very reason why they choose to become a nurse. As he or she evolves in their
nursing career, their philosophy of nursing evolves with it. I believe that nursing is the use of
caring and personal relationships to help heal someone that is emotionally, spiritually, and/or
physically ill.
The Purpose of Nursing
Nursing is about more than just treating a disease; it is about treating the individual as a
whole. “Holism is a philosophy that emanated directly from Florence Nightingale, who believed
in care that focused on unity, wellness, and the interrelationship of human beings. It focuses on
promoting health and wellness, assisting healing, and preventing or alleviating suffering”
(Mariano, 2005, p.48). This includes providing comfort to promote overall well being for the
patient. This approach recognizes that the body and mind are connected. If one suffers so does
the other. The nurse must understand that an individual’s health is complex. One must try to
understand the emotional hardships that may occur in relation to another medical issue.
Examining Personal Values and Beliefs
Caring is an integral component of nursing. Without caring, the profession is lifeless and
inhibits the healing process. According to Rina, Mayumi, & Ruri (2015, p. 8), “caring is the
intersubjective human-to-human processes. Caring responds to the needs of a person, and a
caring attitude indicates recognizing and accepting the person. Thus, it is suggested that caring
itself is nursing.” Caring involves treating a person with respect and in a nonjudgmental manner.
If a patient feels judged or disrespected, then he or she will not feel comfortable talking about his


or her health, thus inhibiting patient care. The patient may also suffer psychological
consequences if the nurse does not adequately show that she cares. When an individual is
suffering from a disease they may feel isolated. Self esteem can also be affected if the nurse
expresses disgust or judgment. It is up to the nurse to be the individual’s support system.
Without caring, the nurse has failed one of the major purposes of nursing.
Another aspect of caring is just simply being there for the patient. A nurse should be
present whenever talking to a client. This can be especially difficult because of the amount of
things the nurse is responsible for. It is hard to physically be in one room for a long period of
time as well as staying mentally present. A nurse may find her thoughts drifting to other tasks of
the day while listening to the patient. I have personally experienced some of obstacles of being
fully present. More importantly I have seen some of the benefits of truly being in the moment
while listening to a patient.
One of my patients was very upset about not being able to eat, as well as wanting to be
with her husband. She had a hard time walking and had experienced a drastic drop in blood
pressure, so she was considered a fall risk. She was angry that we would not let her out of bed
and that her husband was not there when he had promised. I tried to explain to her why we
didn’t want her to get up and that she could not eat because she was scheduled for surgery later
that afternoon. She felt like we were keeping her prisoner already, so the last thing I wanted to
do was to have to ask a nurse to assign a sitter or apply restraints. I continued to try to reason
with her, but it seemed to be getting nowhere. Instead, I started asking questions about her
marriage and other aspects of her life. She stopped trying to get out of bed and just seemed to
enjoy having someone to listen to her. When we were done with our conversation, she and I had


developed a more intimate nurse-patient relationship. She trusted me from thereafter and
decided to lie back in the bed.
Another aspect of caring is empowering the patient. According to Arnoldussen et al
(2015) empowerment is the process of developing the autonomy and confidences to take charge
of one’s own health needs instead of having to be told to do so. A nurse must first have a
personal relationship with his or her client that promotes trust, respect, and understanding so that
the client can be empowered. The nurse must advocate for the client’s wants and also address his
or her concerns. There are many ways that a nurse can help empower her client. One of the most
important tools is educating the individual on all of his or her options including no treatment at
all. Education can also consist of teaching the patient self care, therefore, promoting
independence. When an individual feels empowered, it can promote a better self esteem which
aids in an overall emotionally healthy person.
Compassion is another important aspect of caring within nursing. To me, compassion
consists of empathy, mindfulness, and respect. Every day, nurses display this through showing
kindness to a patient, providing comfort, holding eye contact, and respecting the client’s personal
beliefs (Arnoldussen et al, 2015). This is a concept that no one can teach you; it can only be
gained through self reflection and personal growth. It is not always easy supporting a client to
do something that you do not believe in or agree with. This is especially difficult to do when the
patient has a different cultural or religious background. The nurse should try to understand the
person’s group’s beliefs without judgment.
An example of compassion I experienced during clinical was with an elderly women who
did not like strangers. She had very small veins and was very dehydrated. A more experienced
phlebotomist came in to take her blood so that some tests could be performed. I stayed in the


room because she was not familiar with the other person. At first, she was reluctant about
getting her blood drawn. After hearing the importance of the test, she allowed for her to get the
sample. Because her veins were so small, the phlebotomist had to try several times. I stood in
there the whole time just holding her hand and telling her it would be over soon. I know that it
was not much, but it seemed to make the experience more bearable for her. The personal
relationship that we had built before hand helped her feel more comfortable and improved her
overall care.

Personal relationships are therapeutic in a sense because it gives the patient a source of
support, care, and encouragement. The person is looked at as a whole and not just a disease or
another patient. The nurse-patient relationship is vital aspect of care. This type of relationship
demonstrates one of the selfless roles that he or she must perform. The relationship is meant to
aid and support the patient. I think it vital for the nurse to always keep in mind the individuals
priorities and emotions. True caring does not revolve around one’s self. The patient’s wants and
needs must come before what the nurse prioritizes as more important. I believe that the nurse
should always try to pursue and maintain this relationship.
Guiding Principles
As I begin to care for patients, I live by two principles that impact how I carry out my
tasks as a student nurse. I always try to follow the age old golden rule. This mantra states that
you should treat others the way that you want to be treated. I try to incorporate this into every
facet of care. I use this principle during ordinary task, such as while bathing a client or getting
them something as simple as ice chips. When I make a bed, I try to take a few extra minutes to
smooth out the wrinkle to prevent irritation to the patient’s skin as well as taking into account the


patients personal preferences. I try to perform the best patient care possible because I know that
if I was in their shoes I would want for someone to do the same thing for me.
Another principle I live by is trying to make the hospital experience as pleasant as I can. I
try not to come in with an apathetic or angry demeanor or attitude. This helps build a personal
relationship with the client and to ease any anxiety that they may have. Negativity breeds
negativity, so I always try to bring some positivity. One good or bad interaction can change
someone’s entire day for better or worse. In the end, I believe that this promotes healing. I may
not be able to help fix what is wrong with them, but I might be able to make them smile or feel
more comfortable. A patient told me today that whenever I come into the room, my smile cheers
her up. She told me that that behavior is what is distinguishes a good nurse from a great nurse,
and I would have to agree.
Nursing is one of the most selfless and honorable careers that one can have. It involves
the formation of a therapeutic relationship that benefits the patient. The nurse utilizes many of
the different dimensions of caring to promote well being holistically for the patient. Some of the
major aspects of caring include compassion, presence, and empowerment. Every time I step into
a patient’s room, I try to aid in this process by treating the patient the way I would like to be
treated and appropriately bringing positivity to the situation.
Self Reflection
This assignment made me examine what the purpose of nursing is. It helped me
understand my own reasons for embarking on the pathway to helping people. It also made me
take a deeper look at how my own actions compared to my personal values. One may say that
they value a certain aspect, but show something completely different. Writing this paper helped


encourage me to continue being a compassionate, empathetic, and empowering nurse. I want to
display each concept mentioned throughout this paper especially when referring to the caring
nature of this career.


Arnoldussen, B. H., Booher, C. D., Burgess, C. C., Byrne, M., Callahan, B., Wilhelm, S, (2015)
Nursing a concept-based approach to learning, Vol. 2. 2nd edition, Pearson
Mariano, C. (2005). An over view of holistic nursing, The American Holistic Nurses Association
(AHNA). Retrieved from
Rina, E., Mayumi, T., & Ruri, K. (2015). A Model to Create a Caring and Healing Environment
for Nurses in Child and Family Nursing. International Journal For Human
Caring, 19(1), 8-12 5p


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