Nursing Theory of Jean Watson

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 8
Words: 2225
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: College


Changes being experienced within the health care delivery systems across the globe have led to increasing demands on the part of the nursing fraternity in regard to their workloads and responsibilities. The nurses are required to deal with the emerging issues that characterize their working environment. Though nurses encounter challenging work environments, they are required to find a way in which they will execute their caring mandate. In this regard, the nursing theory advanced by Jean Watson is critical in helping nurses achieve their various goals. Jean Watson’s nursing theory asserts that caring is the pillar of the nursing profession. Also, caring is known to promote health, as opposed to mere medical care. In this respect, Jean Watson believed that health care needed to involve a holistic approach as this was critical to the caring aspect of the nursing profession. Watson observed that caring that is often associated with nursing is not something new as it has existed in virtually all societies of the world. Nonetheless, the caring element is not something that is transferrable form one generation to the next. Watson exemplifies that caring is an aspect that can only be transmitted through the culture found in the nursing profession. In this case, the caring aspect serves to help the nursing profession cope with its environment. This theory asserts that nurses can demonstrate and practice the caring element. It is also observed that caring is an aspect that promotes growth (Watson, 1988). This paper will analyze the theoretical framework presented by Jean Watson, which is known as the Nursing theory of Jean Watson.

Major concepts of the nursing theory by Jean Watson

Jean Watson developed the theory of nursing in 1979. This theoretical framework is often referred top as the theory of Transpersonal caring, theory of human caring, or the caring model. Over the years, this theory has been changing though the basic tenets have remained relatively the same. This theory emphasizes on the humanistic elements related to the nursing profession. This theory was designed so as to give meaning and focus to the nursing profession, making it unique from other health professions (Watson, 1988).

According to Jean Watson, caring is something that is closely associated with the nursing profession. She also believed that the identity of medicines lied in caring. In agreement to Watson’s assertions, Florence Nightingale noted that surgeons only save an individual’s life, but the nurses help individuals to live. Watson established various roles that are played by a nurse. These roles include establishing a caring relationship with the patients; treating patients in a comprehensive manner; displaying unconditional acceptance; having a positive regard when treating patients; promotion health via knowledge and intervention; and spending quality time with patients, which she referred to as “caring moments”. Caring moments refers to the interactions between the nurse and the patients. This interaction between the nurse and the patients is critical in defining the condition of the patients. In essence, the caring moments are able to transform both the nurse and patients (Watson, 1988).

Jean Watson noted that the main elements of her theory included the carative factors; the transpersonal caring relationship; and the caring occasion/caring moment. The three aspects form the basis of this theoretical argument. It can also be observed that Watson’s nursing theory relies on four main concepts. These concepts include human beings, environment, health, and nursing. The human being is defined in a philosophical sense as an individual who is functionally integrated in a comprehensive manner. The health aspect is defined as a high level of individual well being. This includes mental, social, and physical functioning of the body. Watson exemplifies the environment aspect by arguing that the concept of caring and nursing has always existed in the society. However, she observes that the caring aspect is not transferrable form one generation to the other. However, this can only be transferred through the nursing culture as a way of adapting to the profession’s environment. Lastly, Watson is of the view that nursing is associated with various aspects such as health promotion, prevention of illnesses, giving care to the sick, and health restoration. Nursing focuses on health promotional activities and treatment of diseases. In this regard, a holistic health care is critical to the nursing profession (Watson, 1988).

Analysis of Jean Watson’s nursing model

The nursing theory that was developed by Jean Watson has various aspects that relate to the nursing process. According to Watson, the nursing process is parallel to the scientific research process. She noted the first step as being assessment. This step involves various aspects such as observing, identifying, reviewing of the problem, and formulating the hypothesis. After this, the nurse establishes a care plan to help in determining how variables can be observed and the manner in which data can be collected. The third step is intervention, and it involves implementing the plan that has been established. It also includes data collection. The last step is evaluation where the nurse examines the data together with the results of the intervention. This also involves the interpretation of results, which is likely to introduce an additional hypothesis leading to the emergence of a new theory (George, 2011).

The theory advanced by Watson has various assumptions. One of the assumptions is that the demonstration and practice of caring can only be practiced at an interpersonal level. Also, it is observed that caring has carative factors, which satisfies certain human needs. It is also noted that caring results in health promotion, as well as individual or family growth. Another assumption is that caring responses accepts an individual under any circumstances. A caring environment facilitates the development of potential and allows the individual to make a good personal choice at any moment. Also, it has been asserted that caring complements curing. The last assumption of the nursing theory is that caring is critical to nursing theory (George, 2011).

The nursing theory by Jean Watson identifies ten carative factors. The first factor involves the formation of humanistic-altruistic value system. The installation of faith-hope is the second carative factor that has been established by Watson. After this factor, sensitivity to one’s self, as well as others is cultivated. Another factor involves the establishment of helping-trust relationship. Also, expressing of both positive and negative feelings has to be promoted and accepted. The sixth carative factor is the efficient use of a scientific method when making decisions. The other factor involves promoting interpersonal teaching-learning. The other carative factor relates to providing an environment that is supportive, protective and corrective. In addition, assistance should be provided to gratify human needs. Lastly, the theory acknowledges the importance of allowing for existential-phenomenological forces. It is worth noting that the first three factors establish the “philosophical foundation” in respect to the caring science. The other seven factors emanates from the base established by the first three factors (George, 2011).

Watson theory of nursing can be said to have observed the main characteristics of a theory. This is because the nursing theory is logical in nature and relatively simple. In addition, the nursing theory can be easily generalized, and this is a critical aspect of any theoretical framework. It is also worth noting that the nursing theory is based on the phenomenological research works that ask questions, as opposed to stating hypotheses. Also, this theoretical framework can be used for guidance and improvement of the nursing practice. In addition, the nursing theory, as propounded by Jean Watson, has been able to gain support from other theoretical works by other scholars from various fields (George, 2011).

Just like any other piece of work, the nursing theory has its weaknesses and strengths. In respect to the strengths, Jean Watson’s nursing theory is known to place the clients within the family context. Also, the patients are placed within the community and cultural contexts. In addition, this theoretical framework portrays the clients as the main focus of the nursing practice, as opposed to the technology. On the other hand, there are various limitations that are associated with this theory. One of the weaknesses of the nursing theory is that the biophysical requirements of the client are not exemplified effectively. It has also been observed that the various carative factors delineate the psychosocial needs of the individual. In addition, this theory requires further research so as to be able to apply in a practical sense (George, 2011).

Literature review on Watson’s nursing theory

Watson theory of nursing has proved to be critical in the modern day provision of health care. This is because when nurses are made aware of Watson’s nursing theory; they are able to return to their deep professional roots and values. This theory connotes the archetype of an ideal nurse. In nursing, caring endorses the professional identity of nursing in a context where humanistic values are under continuous questioning and challenges (Watson, 1988). The caring values in the daily practice of the nurse assist in transcending the nurse. This is in respect to a situation where the profession is regarded as “just a job” and changes to become a profession that gratifies the nurses’ needs. Observing Watson’s nursing theory allows the nurse to engage in the art of caring; engage in the provision of compassion to relieve the suffering of patients and families; and engages in the promotion of healing and dignity of patients and their families. In addition, this can lead to the expansion of the nurse’s self actualization. It has been observed that Watson, in developing his theoretical framework, he considered both patients and the care-giver. It has been asserted that when nurses promote and apply the caring values emphasized by the theory; it is critical to their health, and it gives them an opportunity to find meaning in their work (George, 2011).

There are various research works that have made use of Watson’s nursing theory. These researches include the research entitled “The effectiveness of Watson’s Caring Model on the quality of life and blood pressure of patients with hypertension.” This research was conducted by various authors including Erci, Sayan, Tortumluoglu, Kiliç, Sahin, and Güngörmüş and was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing in the year 2003. This study established an association between the care that incorporated Watson’s caring model and an improvement in the life quality of life for patients suffering from hypertension. In addition, for the patients where the caring model was implemented, the study found that there was a relationship between the model and decreased blood pressure among patients. In conclusion, it can be observed that the Watson caring model can serve as a guide to dealing with individuals suffering from hypertension. This is because the model does well in leading to a reduced measure in the blood pressure, as well as an improved quality of life among the patients (Erci, 2003).

Analysis of the study using Watson’s nursing theory

In the study conducted by Erci and his associates, the main aim was to look at the effectiveness of the caring relationship of the nurse in accordance with the Watson’s Caring Model. This was in respect to blood pressure and quality of life of those suffering from hypertension. The study adopted a design where there was only one group that was pre-tested and post-tested. This study involved 52 hypertension patients from 4 health care facilities in Erzurum, Turkey. The consent of these patients was sought before they were allowed to participate in the study. The nurses who were taking part in the research were taken through the ten carative factors associated with Watson’s theory. After the training, the nurses participating in the study were well equipped to with the caring process while visiting the participants. The nurses visited the patients and their families once every week so as to measure the patients’ blood pressures. This continued for a period of about three months. After the care had been completed, quality of life and the patients’ blood pressures were taken (Erci, 2003).

The results indicated that the statistical differences between means scores among the various aspects that were measured. These included the general well being of the patients; physical symptoms and activities; and medical interaction. A significant difference was also noted in the blood pressures among the participants before and after the study. The findings from this study pointed to a relationship between care that integrated Watson’s caring model and improved quality of life among patients suffering from hypertension. In addition, a relationship existed between the Watson’s model and a reduction in the patients’ blood pressures for those who were treated based on the caring model. Therefore, from what the study established, it is clear that Watson’s caring model should be recommended for guiding patients suffering from hypertension. This is because it can help them improve on their quality of live and decrease blood pressure (Erci, 2003).


There is no doubt that Watson gives numerous concepts that are useful for the nursing practice. In her theory, Watson ties various theories together that have been used in nursing. She offers a detailed explanation of the carative factors, and this offers an avenue through which this theory can be applied in practical research. In this respect, this theory has been able to be applied in various research works within the nursing realm. Therefore, it can be noted that Jean Watson made a significant contribution to the field of nursing.


Erci, B., et al. (2003). The effectiveness of Watson’s Caring Model on the quality of life and blood pressure of patients with hypertension. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 41(2):130-9.

George, J. B. (2011). Nursing theories: The base for professional nursing practice. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Education.

Watson, J. (1988). New dimensions of human caring theory. Nursing Science Quarterly, 1(4): 175-181.