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Overview of Nurse Theorist

Jean Watson's Theory of Human Caring

(written by and reprinted with the kind permission of Jacqueline Fawcett, RN, PhD, FAAN)

Watson's work is a middle-range theory that deals with the caring actions taken by nurses as they interact with others.


The values and assumptions that form the basis for the theory of human caring reflect a metaphysical, phenomenological-existential, and spiritual orientation that draws upon Eastern philosophy.

VALUES include:

  1. deep respect for the wonder and mysteries of life and the power of humans to change
  2. high regard and reverence for the spiritual-subjective center of the person with power to grow and change
  3. a nonpaternalistic approach to helping a person gain more self-knowledge, self-control, and self-healing, regardless of the presenting health-illness condition.

ASSUMPTIONS deal with human life, nursing science, and the process of nursing.

Watson's conception of human life is tied to notions that one's soul possesses a body that is not confined by objective space and time. The lived world of the experiencing person is not distinguished by external and internal notions of time and space, but shapes its own time and space, which is unconstrained by linearity.

Nursing is a human science of persons and human health-illness experiences that are mediated by professional, personal, scientific, esthetic, and ethical human care transactions.

The process of nursing is human care.


The main concept of the theory is TRANSPERSONAL HUMAN CARING, which is best understood within the concepts of three ancillary concepts: LIFE, ILLNESS, and HEALTH.

HUMAN LIFE is defined as spiritual-mental-physical being-in-the-world, which is continuous in time and space.

ILLNESS is not necessarily disease. Illness is subjective turmoil or disharmony with a person's inner self or soul at some level or disharmony within the spheres of the person, either consciously or unconsciously.

HEALTH refers to unity and harmony within the mind, body, and soul.

TRANSPERSONAL HUMAN CARING and caring transactions are those scientific, professional, ethical, yet esthetic, creative and personalized giving-receiving behaviors and responses between nurse and patient that allow for contact between the subjective world of the experiencing persons through physical, mental, or spiritual routes or some combination thereof.

THE GOAL OF NURSING is to help persons gain a higher degree of harmony within the mind, body, and soul which generates self-knowledge, self-reverence, self-healing, and self-care processes while increasing diversity.

Nursing interventions or CARATIVE FACTORS are:

  1. Humanistic-altruistic system of values
  2. Faith-hope
  3. Sensitivity to self and others
  4. Helping-trusting, human care relationship
  5. Expressing positive and negative feelings
  6. Creative problem-solving caring process
  7. Transpersonal teaching-learning
  8. Supportive, protective, and/or corrective mental, physical, societal, and spiritual environment
  9. Human needs assistance
  10. Existential-phenomenological-spiritual forces

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This page was last modified on 6/1/02