Patterson’s Humanistic Nursing Theory

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 5
Words: 1119
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College


Paterson is a great proponent of humanistic nursing theory which is multidimensional. The theory describes the essences of nursing and considers the dynamics of being, becoming and change (Patterson, 1976). This nursing theory is interactive and offers a methodology for reflective presentation of nursing essences. The theory also offers a methodological bridge between theory and practice by giving a guide for nursing dialogue in a variety of settings. As viewed through humanistic nursing theory, nursing is the ability to struggle with another through “peak experiences related to health and suffering in which the participants in nursing situation are and become in accordance with their human potential” (Paterson, 1976). This essay reflects on Patterson’s theory that I hold as relevant and inspiring for the following reasons: encourages dialogue and interaction between nurses and patients; enhances humanness in nurses and patients; can be use in research; enables nurses to support the process lived by patient and guides in development of nursing practice.

Encourages Dialogue between Participants

The struggle is shared through dialogue between the participants. The mandate to share allows the nurse and the patient to enter into a relationship with each other. According to Paterson (1976), the aim of the dialogue in nursing is to nurture the wellbeing of individuals in need. Existentialism is grounded in humanistic nursing theory and it emphasizes the lived experience of nursing. It builds on the affirmation of being and becoming of both nurses and patients through choices they opt for and intersubjective relationships they engage in (Patterson, 1976).

Patterson’s view of humanistic nursing theory is inspiring as it embraces the value of human nature in the clinical process; aimed at helping patients, preserving their autonomy and their ability to make decisions. As a result, nurses are able to focus on persons’ health (well-being) as well as their full existence. This helps human beings at that particular time in their lives. Patterson (1976) posits that being human is considered in the Humanistic Nursing Theory on the basis of an existential structure of becoming through choices, with the ability to open up for options, with value and with the single manifestation of one’s past, present and future (Paterson, 1976).

Enhances Humanness of both Nurse and Patient

Paterson’s theory addresses two important issues; how nurses and patients interact, and how nurses develop the knowledge base for nursing practice. She suggests that the nurse and patient are important components in nurse patient relationship. Acts of caring in nursing practices enhances humanness of both nurses and patients. Both nurses and patients approach situations with experiences that influence the encounter. Therefore, nurses treat such encounter as existential experiences and must explain them from a phenomenological angle. Overall, these experiences enhance development of nursing practices (Friedman, 1998).

Paterson describes nursing as a lived dialogue between nurses and patients directed toward, the goal of nurturing wellbeing in the everyday world. Accordingly, Patterson interrelates four concepts of human beings; health, nursing and society, so that a different way of looking at the phenomenon of nursing is created for using existential philosophy and phenomenological methodology within a humanistic framework. Nursing is described as an inter-subjective transaction that has a new and different description of nursing although it is similar in concept to other nursing theories (Patterson, 1976).

The Theory Can be Utilized in Clinical Studies

Patterson’s nursing theories can be used as a framework of hypothesis that can be tested. The theory generates a pool of knowledge within the nursing profession through studies implemented to validate them (Friedman, 1998). She describes several replications of methodology and presents numerous concepts that could be examined. Phenomenological nosology can be tested, thus, is a good medium for concept and theory development (Patterson, 1976). Patterson makes humanistic nursing theory to be logical in nature as she provides a framework and methodology for nursing in practice. In addition, she also provides ideas and concepts fit together in a meaningful way.

Humanistic nursing theory is not easy; it is somewhat not easy to understand unless the nurse is familiar with existential philosophy and phenomenology. Humanistic nursing theory focuses on dialogue between nurses and patients as unique encounter between them. The knowledge realized by repeated study of this interaction gives a generalized concept. Thus, Paterson’s view of Humanistic Nursing Theory holds relevance as it views nursing in human context; a comforting response from nurse to patient at a moment of need with a view to the development of well-being and becoming (Paterson, 1976).

Enables Nurses to Support the Process Lived by Patient

Particularly inspiring in this theory of humanistic nursing philosophy, nurses feed the potential of jointly experiencing and supporting the process lived by the patient (Patterson, 1976). The theory guides nurses and patients in making responsible and humane care decisions, hence, humanistic nursing. Therefore, nurses are bound to respect the other person and be supportive in delivering nursing care. In essence, a typical nurse should be compassionate with the pain endured by a patient and should maintain individuality. A nurse can care for a patient by visualizing and understanding the circumstances the patient endures (Friedman, 1998).

Enhances Growth of Nursing Profession

Stakeholders in nursing use theories to enhance and improve their nursing practices. Therefore, Patterson’s theory can be used by nurses to enhance and promote nursing practice. Although nurses may find the concepts new at the beginning, a study of humanistic psychology and existential philosophy facilitates an understanding of the concepts and an appreciation of human potential. Humanistic nursing theory is consistent with existentialism, humanistic psychology and phenomology upon which it is based. Since humanistic nursing theory is descriptive and generalizable, it can be utilized in any nursing situation always open for examination (Friedman, 1998).


This paper has reflected on Paterson’s theory on nursing practices with family. I selected Paterson’s theoretic description for relational nursing practice as the most relevant and inspiring. Particularly inspiring about Paterson’s theory is that the theory operates under the following assumptions: two involves two individuals in nursing who accept to engage in an existential relationship with each other; as human beings, nurses are exceptional and biopsychosocial beings with ability for becoming through choice and inter-subjectivity; nursing present experiences are more than the overall sum of the past, present and present; all nursing responses influences the quality of a patient’s living and dying; nurses and patients co-exist and are both independent and interdependent; well being is enhanced by intimacy and mutual relationships; through the goal of more wellbeing in nursing is enhanced by both the nurse and the patient as they experience the process of making of making responsive choices; and the assumption that human beings are free and are expected to be involved in their own care and decisions involving them (Paterson, 1976).

Reference List

Friedman, M. (1998). Family Nursing. Stanford: Appleton and Lange.

Paterson, G., & Zderad, I. (1976). Humanistic Nursing. New York: John Wiley & Sons.