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Jean Watson’s Influence on Nursing Practice

Jean Watson’s influence on nursing practice

Jean Watson’s theory of human caring, including the ten carative factors

Jean Watson’s theory is founded on the Science of Caring, which entails how nurses care for their patients. Watson describes patients as a self, not an object, and draws the humanistic aspects of nurses’ practice and knowledge. The theory is concerned with promoting health and disease treatment (Watson & Woodward, 2010). Watson considers caring as the core of nursing practice as it helps with the healing process. Watsons explains that nurses can demonstrate and practice caring through promoting growth, accepting people as they are, and looking forward to what they become. Watson’s theory includes transpersonal relationships that depict a human being as a valued person who deserves to be understood, respected, cared for, and assisted. The human is perceived as more significant than the sum of their parts. Watson also describes health as the overall mental, physical, social function of the integral functional self.

The Science of Caring involves a mutual relationship between the nurse and the patient, which generates positive energy flowing through the spirit, body, and mind. Watson perceives that nurses are responsible for ensuring the patients are in their best position to experience self-healing (Watson & Woodward, 2010). Other principles and practices within Watson’s theory include equanimity, love and kindness, and authentic presence. These principles create deep belief and personal spiritual growth that allow the spirit, mind, and body to develop beyond self to care for others. Watson’s moral foundation of values and love enables nurses to surpass their ego and cultivate a caring environment to protect human health and dignity through love and respect. Nurses are required to respect their patient’s wishes, cultures, and needs. Watson describes the self-caring consciousness, which enables human beings to create an internal balance and harmony with others and do whatever they need. The authentic presence allows human beings to connect at personal levels and to honour each other. The caring moment is an encounter with other people that enables sharing experience that bolsters understanding of the patient as a person.

Watson describes caring as expansive, circular, and inclusive, and it includes the self, other people, family, and the patients. Caring helps transform people, nature, the environment, and the community. The ten carative factors include embracing, inspiring, trusting, nurturing, forgiving, deepening, balancing, co-creating, ministering, and opening (Watson & Woodward, 2010). These carative factors involve embracing altruistic values, practising love and kindness with self and others, inspiring faith and hope and honoring others, trusting in self and others by cultivating personal beliefs, growth, and practice, and nurturing relationships based on helping, trusting, and caring. These factors also involve forgiveness, accepting other people’s feelings, and listening to them, creating a balance through teaching and learning to solve personal needs, response, and learning. Watson’s carative factors involve in-depth scientific knowledge to develop solutions and make caring decisions, co-creating a physical and spiritual healing environment for the self and promoting human dignity, ministering basic human needs, and being open to mystical events and miracles.

Jean Watson views on patterns of knowledge

Watson describes empirical knowledge as the science which requires knowledge to be verifiable and have factual descriptions and explanations. Empirics need to have objective and or subjective collections of data such as scientific data. The esthetic knowing (the art of nursing), according to Watson, is what is considered fundamental in the understanding of a patient’s behavior and feeling. Nurses need to develop interpersonal relationships and interactions with the patients to strengthen comprehension (Watson & Woodward, 2010). Through these relationships, nurses can accept the patients as they are and do what the need in the “who” and “what.” The transpersonal relationship makes nurses’ actions visible. Watson views ethical knowing as what is perceived good for the patient and involves an explanation of moral and non-moral obligations and the outcomes of ethical reasoning and decision making. Ethical knowing includes nurses’ ethical code of conduct, standards, and philosophies. Personal knowing develops through interpersonal interactions that exist between the patient and the nurse. These interactions help nurses reflect and build-upon the experience to better understand and care for their patients (Watson & Woodward, 2010). The interpersonal relationships of the nursing process express the quality of care.  

Patterns of Knowledge that are more evident (or easier to apply) in Watson’s theory of human caring

Esthetic knowing, personal knowing, and ethical knowing are more evident and easily applicable in Watson’s theory. Watson provides broader descriptions of authentic presence, equanimity, love, and kindness. Watson’s theory principles enable the human being to develop deep belief and spiritual growth and flow within the body, mind, and spirit. This development helps nurses go beyond their ego to provide a physical and spiritual care and healing environment. Esthetic knowing, personal knowing, and ethical knowing can only be emulated through Watson’s human care principles (Cowling, Smith & Watson, 2008). Empirical knowing is challenging to apply in Watson’s theory since some nursing practice aspects are not empirical. For instance, a nurse cannot use empirical knowing to comfort or feed a patient. The nurse needs to apply ethical, personal, and esthetic knowing to develop a relationship that helps understand the patient’s behavior.

Another example would be a nurse dealing with a patient that cannot communicate or express themselves. It is easy to understand the patient’s needs through personal knowledge, whether it is the need to use a toilet, adjust the sleeping conditions, hunger, room conditions, pain, or companionship. Ethical, esthetic, and personal knowledge helps understand the art of human caring and nurses apply necessary remedies and respond accordingly to patient’s needs.

Reflection on how you may (or do) use caring science in practice, and a practice scenario in which you could or do apply the theory to patient care

Science of Care in nursing helps understand the patient’s personality, behavior, and needs. Patients display different characters, and through caring science in practice, nurses are better equipped with the ability to develop interactions with patients to comprehend their needs. Upon this comprehension of various behavior patterns among patients, it becomes possible and easy to attend to their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. In many cases that involve chronic illnesses, for instance, cancer, many patients are in denial. Other infections like chronic mental illnesses make most patients suicidal. During treatment, patients display certain unexpected behaviors and conditions such as aggressiveness, silence, and self-hate that require constant inspection and medication. These patients need much attention and elevated care to build self-dignity and acceptance. The knowledge acquired through Science of Care is vital in these scenarios, and the most important thing is to remain open to mystical events and miracles. In these instances, good interpersonal relations would help the patients cope with anxiety and emotions, such as fear that could arise. 


Chinn, P., & Kramer, M. (2015). Knowledge development in nursing theory and practice.

Cowling III, W. R., Smith, M. C., & Watson, J. (2008). The power of wholeness, consciousness, and caring a dialogue on nursing science, art, and healing. Advances in nursing science, 31(1), E41-E51.

Persegona, K. R., Rocha, D. L. B., Lenardt, M. H., & Zagonel, I. P. S. (2009). The political knowledge in the acting of the nurse. Escola Anna Nery, 13(3), 645-650.

Watson, J., & Woodward, T. K. (2010). Jean Watson’s theory of human caring. Nursing theories and nursing practice, 3, 351-369.

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