Three Theories in Nursing Practice

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 4
Words: 1075
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: Bachelor


The process of adapting to new work duties and responsibilities, as well as to a new team of colleagues, can be rather challenging. Furthermore, the process of applying the theoretical nursing knowledge gained in educational institutions to nursing practice can also be associated with certain barriers and problems. Natalie, a Russian immigrant, has started working as an RN in an intensive care unit. Despite having a Master’s degree in nursing, she has no working experience, and she faces opposition from her two colleagues who have only Associate degrees, but they also have 10 years of experience as nurses. Natalie hesitates regarding her choice of a profession because these women are rather rude and question her competence. The situation observed in Natalie’s workplace should be discussed concerning the Role Theory, the Conflict Theory, and the Social Exchange Theory. The purpose of this paper is to compare the information related to the case study with the assumptions of these three theories and compare the learned data with nursing practice, providing examples.

When referring to the case study information, it is possible to state that Natalie hesitates regarding her role responsibilities because they can differ from the expectations she had when receiving her degree. According to the Role Theory, at the current stage, this novice nurse experiences the role strain or stress associated with her new position and the lack of support from other nurses (McEwen & Wills, 2019). In addition, she also experiences role incongruity as she was interested in caring for patients, but now she needs to overcome a variety of technical nursing issues associated with daily activities. As a result, Natalie does not feel that her education and experience can be correlated with her current nursing role. To feel more competent and confident in the workplace, she needs to improve her knowledge of technical aspects of the profession and then refer to her role as a caring nurse. From this perspective, situations from the case study can be compared with the basic principles of the Role Theory.

Another theory that can explain Natalie’s experiences and difficulties is the Conflict Theory. Currently, a novice nurse suffers from a conflict with the other two nurses, and the nature of the conflict can be in the aspects of power, authority, and inequality (Kalkman, 2018; McEwen & Wills, 2019). After communicating with her professor, Natalie learns that, from these nurses’ perspectives, Natalie’s degree is a threat to the experienced nurses’ position because they have less advanced degrees. Thus, they can oppose the novice nurse because, despite their experience, she may take a higher position in the hierarchy. To overcome the conflict, Natalie should communicate with the nurses and explain that she needs some time to gain more experience as an RN despite her education.

The situation in the intensive care unit can also be analyzed following the principles of the Social Exchange Theory. According to the theory, individuals view their relationships with people as successful when their motivation to interact is supported, their interactions or social exchanges are fair and positive, and there is reciprocity in these relations (McEwen & Wills, 2019). In Natalie’s case, her relationships with her colleagues are not reciprocal or positive, and this situation causes the nurse to lose motivation to perform her duties. To develop rewarding relationships, Natalie can openly communicate with the nurses and explain her position (Xerri & Reid, 2018). To build positive relations, as a novice nurse, Natalie should also appreciate the experience, knowledge, and assistance of her skillful colleagues. This step is necessary to demonstrate that she values their help and should learn from their experience. As a result, it is possible to expect that Natalie will perceive her complicated relations with other nurses as an obligatory first stage and will focus on building beneficial relationships and overcoming conflicts.

Comparison of the Case Study Aspects to Nursing Practice

The Role Theory, the Conflict Theory, and the Social Exchange Theory are actively applied in the workplaces, including in nursing and medical settings. For example, in one of the intensive care units, there can be a shortage of nurses, and new nurses can be required to perform multiple roles although they are not prepared for completing certain responsibilities. As a result, a nurse can experience role conflict and role overload at the same time (Kalkman, 2018). The reason is that she faces the necessity of combining different roles, and the requirements related to these roles exceed her resources, knowledge, and experience. In some cases, the description of roles and responsibilities can be not enough to perform duties effectively (Kalkman, 2018). This situation can often lead to a nurse’s exhaustion and the inability to perform her duties successfully.

The examples from nursing practice to support the Conflict Theory and the Social Exchange Theory are usually similar and are related to each other. For instance, a team of nurses in a selected clinical setting includes a 37-year-old nurse leader and several nurses who are aged 50 years old and over. These nurses seem not to respect their nurse leader because of the age factor. To overcome this conflict based on power and domination aspects, it is necessary to focus on the nature of other nurses’ aggression (McEwen & Wills, 2019). Thus, aggression and opposition can be associated with the lack of experience in their nurse leader, the lack of competence, ineffective decision-making, and inappropriate leadership style or other factors. In this context, it is necessary to apply the principles of the Social Exchange Theory and build reciprocal relationships between team members to improve their interactions and the quality of services.


To conclude the case study analysis, it is important to note that it can be successfully interpreted concerning the Role Theory, the Conflict Theory, and the Social Exchange Theory. These theories provide specific and clear concepts that can be used to understand why Natalie may face particular difficulties and barriers in the workplace. If Natalie learns the principles of these three theories, she can understand the behavior of her colleagues and effectively react to it, concentrating on building respectful, positive, and rewarding relationships. Thus, the Role Theory helps to explain the experienced role incongruity in the discussed situation. The Conflict Theory allows for focusing on the aspects of power and domination in Natalie’s relations. Finally, the Social Exchange Theory is important to understand the concept of reciprocity concerning the nurse’s interactions in the workplace.


Kalkman, B. (2018). Concept analysis: Role ambiguity in senior nursing students. Nursing Forum, 53(2), 232-240. Web.

McEwen, M., & Wills, E. M. (2019). Theoretical basis for nursing (5th ed.). Wolters Kluwer.

Xerri, M. J., & Reid, S. R. (2018). Human resources and innovative behaviour: Improving nursing performance. International Journal of Innovation Management, 22(2), 1-10. Web.