Caring is a fundamental concept in the study of human growth, development, and survival. When applied to nursing, caring is observed to have two aspects, namely activities and attitudes. The study of care in nursing is vital, to explicate caregiver and recipient roles in a variety of living and survival contexts. Another importance for the study of care is to preserve and maintain the human attribute for current and future human cultures. In addition to this, the study of caring is vital because, since the beginning of modern professional nursing, there has been no systematic study about caring about nursing care.
History of caring in nursing
Women have been closely associated with nursing since it has been their occupation for the longest time. Nursing is juxtaposed to motherhood and maternal care. Care can be seen in the religious women who involve themselves in humanistic services to the poor, sick, and helpless. According to Nightingale (1860), nursing involves providing the best environment for nature to restore or preserve health and to prevent or cure diseases and injury. Nursing is performed under the prescription of scientific heads, such as surgeons or physicians, and involves taking care of the sick, injured, or dying, as well as performing housekeeping activities such as cooking, laundry, and cleaning.
According to Nightingale (1860), nursing is an art of charity, which implies that nurses have the highest class of character by portraying honesty, truthfulness, trustworthiness, hopefulness, order, and empathy. Throughout history, nurses have been observed to be good and loving, as well as tender, cheerful, kind, patient, and ingenious.
Definition of care/caring
The word care has been used in nursing as a verb, as in caring for others or to manifest care with concern, compassion, and interest in another person besides oneself. The definitions of care include strangers who give care by comfort, alleviation of distress, and other human ways. Nursing involves helping people, who are either ill or well, in the performance of various activities that result in health or the recovery of health, or to a peaceful death, that they would perform without the need for assistance if they had the strength, will or knowledge.
According to Leininger (1977), caring involves the assistive, supportive, or facilitative actions directed to other individuals with the view to improving their human condition. She further defines professional caring as the cognitive and culturally learned action behaviors, techniques, processes, or patterns that help an individual, family, or community to improve or maintain a favorably healthy condition. By combining the two definitions, Leininger (1977) comes up with a definition for professional nursing care, the cognitively learned humanistic and scientific modes of helping or enabling an individual, family, or community to receive personalized services through specific culturally defined or scribed modes of caring techniques to improve or maintain a constructively healthy condition for life or death.
Mayeroff (1971) defines caring as the antithesis of using another person to satisfy personal needs. He identifies wrongful interpretations of the word caring, such as: comforting, having an interest in what happens to another, or simply wanting to care for a person. He emphasizes that caring is a process; a way of relating to someone that involves development. According to Watson (2002), caring is a science that includes a “humanitarian, human science orientation, human caring processes, phenomena, and experiences”.
It is believed that nursing was derived from the concept of nurturance, which includes ideas of caring, growth, and support. The profession of nursing has care as its central practice focus, since it looks into caring behaviors, caring processes, and caring relationships. According to McCance (1999), the objectives of caring are closely associated with some health forms of love. Caring drives individuals into creating an environment for loved ones that allows them to fulfill themselves. As a result, caring can be said to aim at growth and self-actualization.
Nursing involves the process of caring that is aimed at promoting positive health changes. It includes the formation of humanistic systems of values, instillation of faith and hope, cultivation of mutual sensitivity, development of a trusting relationship and supportive environment, aid with the gratification of personal needs, promotion of interpersonal learning, and the use of problem-solving techniques for decision making.
The historical perspective of caring focuses on mother-child relationships. Research conducted on nursing practice situations suggests that efforts toward creating persons who are responsible for their own lives in matters of health in the over-bureaucratized health care system are diminished.
Watson’s Caring Theory
There have been numerous changes in the delivery systems of health care globally, leading to increased intensity of the obligations and duties of nurses. This implies that the nurses have to handle more complex health care concerns, as opposed to the earlier years. Even though there are some challenges in the delivery of health services, the nurses need to overcome them, to preserve their caring practice. This achievement of this goal has been facilitated by Watson’s caring theory.
The aspect of caring in nursing is a vital ingredient in the practice since it makes the process of providing care gratifying, as opposed to just another occupation, with earnings on a monthly basis. Watson’s theory provides the nurses with an opportunity to exercise caring, to show empathy to relieve the patients and families that are sorrowful and to enhance their therapeutic and decorum duties. The theory is also helpful in increasing the nurses’ sense of self-actualization. Watson’s theory looks at the caring values, with regard to both the patients and nurses. The application of caring values in the provision of health care is important for nurses since it gives meaning to their work, and it provides them with good health.
Overview of Watson’s Caring Theory
The main elements of Watson’s theory include: “the creative factors; the transpersonal caring relationship; and the caring occasion/caring moment” (Watson, 1979).
Creative Factors are used to contrast with conventional medicine’s curative factors. These factors try to “honor the human dimensions of nursing’s work and the inner life world and subjective experiences of the people we serve” (Watson, 1979).
Transpersonal Caring Relationship implies a unique type of human care association that relies on the honorable duty of the nurse in promoting and securing an individual’s decorum and inner self; the concept of caring as perceived by the nurses in order to maintain and respect the personified spirit, which gives people a moral status of being human; and the caring perception of the nurse that asserts their skill and ability to heal, due to their sense of association with the patients. The word “transpersonal” is used to signify extending beyond an individual’s ego. This attribute allows caregivers to seek in-depth spiritual association in order to enhance the therapeutic and ease of the patients (Mayeroff, 1971). This kind of caring pertains to providing security and promoting the dignity and inner peace, of an individual.
A transpersonal caring relationship implies the ability of the caregiver to move further, from an objective assessment of the patient to a more subjective and deeper sense, with regard to the condition of their patient’s health. The ability of the nurse to show concern for the patient is important in the establishment of an understanding between the patient and the caregiver. Watson (2002) suggests that this mutual search for sense and completeness is meant to create a connection for the spiritual transcendence of suffering.
The coming together of a nurse and a person needing care, to create an opportunity for the parties concerned to provide care is referred to as the caring moment. This human-to-human transaction comprises an individual’s “feelings, bodily sensations, thoughts, spiritual beliefs, goals, expectations, environmental considerations, and meanings of one’s perceptions”. These factors are dependent on the life history of an individual, as well as their current life, and their presumed future.
While it is important for the individual being taken care of to acknowledge the presence of a caregiver, Watson (1979) suggests that the nurse should also be fully perceptive of the time spent providing care to the patient. The participants in the process of caring can be easily influenced by the occurrences during their interaction, which would then affect their future. The caring occasion becomes “transpersonal” when “it allows for the presence of the spirit of both; then the event of the moment expands the limits of openness and can expand human capabilities” (Watson, 1979).
My definition for caring with regard to the nursing profession involves the processes that take place after the nurse makes contact with a patient, and result in enhancing the well-being of the patient. Watson (2002) suggests that patients can only be cured if care is provided to them. This implies that nurses provide care to their patients with the sole intention of making a positive contribution to their treatment, and eventually curing them of their illness.
Caring comprises two main features, namely hope, which refers to the awareness of possibilities, and commitment, which refers to the devotion to see something through to completion. Patients seek care through hope that they will get better, and it is the role of the nurse to provide the necessary care, to uphold the hope and faith of the patients (McCance, McKenna, & Boore, 1999).
Commitment acts in support of an individual’s hope, while preconceived beliefs work to diminish the hope and faith in a positive outcome. The various settings that patients find themselves in when they need care include retirement centers, nursing homes or residential homes, either own homes or family homes. The condition of the patients may make them wary of their surroundings, and the nurses, therefore, step in to comfort them. This requires the nurse to have inner peace and understanding of the various occurrences in life, including death itself. In summary, caring means putting another person’s needs before your own, without any influence, or at will. Usually, this process requires one to put themselves in the shoes of another person, so that you can understand their needs, and provide the necessary care to satisfy those needs. Increased caring in institutions is likely to result in better overall societal benefit. Institutions should increase the awareness of the nurses to the value of nursing so that they can change lives (McCance, McKenna, & Boore, 1999).
Leininger, M. (1977). The Phenomenon of caring: The essence and Central Focus of Nursing. American Nurses’ Foundation, 14.
Mayeroff, M. (1971). On Caring. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.
McCance, T. V., McKenna, H. P., & Boore, J. R. (1999). Caring: theoretical perspectives of relevance to nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing , 30(6), 1388-1396.
Nightingale, F. (1860). Notes on Nursing. New York: D. Appleton and Co.
Watson, J. (2002). Intentionality and caring-healing Consciousness: A practice of transpersonal nursing. Holistic Nursing Practice , 16(4), 12-19.
Watson, J. (1979). Nursing: The Philosophy and Science of Caring.. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.