Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Interbeing and Mindfulness: A Bridge to Understanding Jean Watson's Theory of Human Caring

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Interbeing and Mindfulness: A Bridge to Understanding Jean Watson's Theory of Human Caring

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT This article proposes using Thich Naht Hanh's concept of interbeing and the practice of mindfulness as a bridge to understanding Jean Watson's theory of human caring. An explanation and comparison of both approaches are provided in narrative and table form. Simple mindfulness practices of nonjudgmental attention to thoughts and awareness of breath are described to provide a starting point for teaching and action. A deeper understanding of interbeing and the theory of human caring, and how they relate to one another, is possible through the practice of mindfulness. Creative utilization of this alternative teaching approach may enhance student understanding of complex principles when teaching Watson's theory.

NURSING THEORIES REFLECT NURSING DEVELOPMENT THROUGH TIME. From Florence Nightingale's Notes on Nursing (1) to Jean Watson's theory of human caring (2), theories are the foundation of nursing thought, teaching, and practice. However, over the course of my career, I have heard many colleagues refer to nursing theories as superflous and irrelevant to daily practice.

I recently shared a passage from Watson's theory of human caring with a colleague: "Care and love are the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mysterious of cosmic forces: they comprise the primal universal psychic energy ....Caring is the essence of nursing and the most central and unifying focus for nursing practice" (3, pp. 32-33). During the conversation that followed, my colleague asked, "Do you actually think about this stuff during your workday?" I explained that I think about it daily it is who I am and how I view the world. I explained that living "care" as a lifestyle meant caring for myself as well as others not the traditional objectivist view of providing care.

Since Watson's theory exists without a specific roadmap for how to understand it, or effectively teach it to others, I found myself describing methods I had used that allowed me to grasp the concepts. It occurred to me that I might never have appreciated the deep significance of this theory for nursing practice had I not first studied mindfulness in the Zen Buddhist tradition. Watson alludes to the concept of mindfulness in her writings: "This model now more explicitly acknowledges that the nurse or practitioner, who is working with this theory and its underlying philosophy, needs to cultivate a daily practice for self [mindfulness]. Practices such as centering, meditation, breathwork, yoga, prayer, connections with nature and other such forms of daily contemplation are essential to the theory's authenticity and success. In other words, if one is to work from a caring healing paradigm, one must live it out in daily life" (4, p. 51).

Sadly, I realized that without a common bridge to understanding this complex theory, my colleague and I might never connect and meaningfully discuss this issue. I wondered if nurse educators could provide tools to students to enable them to more comfortably explore and discuss the hard-to-define aspects of nursing - those things that are mutual and simultaneously happening on several levels at once but are difficult to understand in linear, Western terms, and that may be explored and described in the Zen tradition.

The Challenge of Wholism Nursing practice, as it is taught today, is based on the assumption that it is best to treat the "whole" client. A widely accepted concept of wholistic nursing includes providing care to both the tangible and intangible aspects of human existence: mind, body, and spirit (5). Watson's theory of human caring creates a balanced perspective in nursing education and practice by providing a framework for addressing the mind-body-spirit of nurse and client simultaneously during interactions.

Changes in the health care system have led to the view that nursing care consists primarily of technical tasks that may be measured in objective, monetary terms. This is an error. …

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