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Historical Context Of Nursing Theory Development Continued

Historical Context of Nursing Theory Development Continued

The 1960s and 1970s found nursing research becoming more clinically based. There was the beginning of an attempt to build a substantive body of nursing knowledge. What does that mean? Basically, nurse leaders recognized the need to move from simply applying information from other disciplines (like medicine or sociology) to creating information that belonged uniquely to the profession of nursing. It is through this type of research that nursing could distinguish itself as an independent profession. To clearly utilize this growing knowledge, nursing needed ways to organize and relate isolated bits of information, leading to increased theory development. As an outgrowth, the 1970s spawned the development of conceptual models evident in the work of theorists like Martha Rogers, Dorothea Orem and Callista Roy.

The 1980s and 1990s (and continuing today) found nursing research that focused on clinical outcomes and evidence for nursing practices. Rather than basing practice on tradition, or the old “we’ve always done it that way” method, nurses engaged in research to seek out underlying principles for excellent practice. Many new nursing journals were started, giving nurse scholars the ability to disseminate their findings. The research effort was also enhanced in 1985 with the establishment of the National Center for Nursing Research. In 1993, the Center was elevated to “institute” status as the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). This important move provided federal monies to support nursing research. With better research, theory development was able to skyrocket. Many nursing theorists have proposed new ways of thinking about nursing during this time.

Another shift in the focus of nursing was seen in the 1990s. This was the move to include qualitative research as an acceptable way to create knowledge in nursing. In the most basic sense, qualitative research uses words rather than numbers to explore what is considered as truth. The debate over how to create nursing knowledge is an issue facing nursing scholars.

Currently, nursing research and theory development continues to grow. Masters and doctoral programs have increased in number, preparing more nurses to take on the role of nurse researchers. There are many nurses working singly or collaboratively on nursing theories of various types. Most of the focus is on clinical problems, but the question over nursing education is still applicable.

There are many nursing theories. Information about individual theories and theorists will be provided throughout this course. There are a number of on-line resources available. Here are a couple of general starting sites:

Clayton College and State University Department of Nursing. (2004). Nursing Theory Link Page. Retrieved January 4, 2005, from


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