I was asked to participate in the conference “Freedom for Nurses Now” because of the work that has engaged me since the 1950s, the work of acquiring insights about nursing and formulating and expressing these insights in an organized form. Nursing involves us as human beings; it involves the use of our freedom, from the point of view of our existence in time; and it involves us in the order imposed by our culture.
My general focus today (and I hope it will be your focus) is the relationship between the nurse's utilization of valid theory and the responsibility and freedom of the nurse in nursing practice. Nurses have tended to reject the notion of theory as providing a basis for practice. Knowing how to do this and that for individuals under the care of nurses has been emphasized as the central case of both nursing education and practice, by nurses and those others who always seem to know what is best for nursing and nurses. This focus on doing as an organizing center is comparable to developing a medical curriculum around drawing blood samples, giving intravenous infusions, or taking out appendixes outside a substantial frame of reference. The orientation of the practicing nurse to individuals or groups who can benefit from nursing is in large part determined by the experiences of the nurse and by the degree to which the nurse is or is not guided by theoretical formulations about the phenomena that confront the nurse as nurse. I recall hearing Dr. Rusk (Rehabilitation Medicine) make the statement that when patients with disabilities were ready to embark on the
This paper was originally presented at the Georgetown Student Conference in 1976.