The general conception of any field of research ultimately dictates the type of knowledge that field aspires to develop, as well as the organization, testing, and application of that information. Barbara Carper emphasizes that, in the profession of nursing, what we value as knowledge and how we go about creating that knowledge for our practice is determined by how we perceive our disciplinary focus.
Patterns of Nursing Knowledge
Ethics: The moral component of nursing
Nursing ethics is concerned with concerns of obligation: what should be done. In nursing, the moral component of knowing entails making a moment-to-moment judgment about what ought to be done, what is good and right, and what is responsible (Carper, 1975). Ethical knowledge informs and guides how nurses behave morally in their activities, what they value, where their loyalties are put, and whose priorities require advocating.
Personal knowing: The self and other in nursing
In nursing, personal knowing refers to the inner experience of being a complete, aware, and true self. People can only know the other by first knowing themselves in a non-objectified way. The meaningful, shared human experience is made possible by full knowledge of the Self in the present and in the context of contact. The therapeutic use of the Self in nursing would not be conceivable without this component of knowing.
Aesthetics: The art of nursing
In nursing, aesthetic knowledge entails an appreciation of a situation’s meaning and the summoning of inner resources to change the experience into what is not yet actual, thus bringing into being something that would not otherwise be conceivable (Carper, 1975). Aesthetic knowledge is what allows us to know what to do and how to be in the moment, without having to think about it.
Empirics: The science of nursing
The idea behind empirics is that what is known may be accessed through the physical senses, primarily sight, touch, and hearing. Science and other empirically oriented approaches underpin empirics as a pattern of knowing. Empirics assumes that what a large number of individuals see and agree on is an objective truth.
Carper, B. A. (1975). Fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing. Teachers College, Columbia University.