My work of seeking to understand the nature and structure of nursing during the years 1959 to the present has been concerned with two questions: What do nurses encounter in their worlds as they design and produce nursing for others? What meaning can and should nurses attach to persons, things, events, conditions, and circumstances they encounter?
Over the years, three theories have been developed to answer two questions that must have answers if we are to understand what nurses encounter and what they do as nurses.
The first question is: Why do people need nursing, or what human condition brings about a need for nursing? The theories of self-care and the theory of self-care deficit provide hypothesized answers. The second question is: What is nursing? What is the structure of the entity, the service that we refer to as nursing? The theory of nursing system provides a hypothesized answer.
My work in theory development has focused on the beginning development of scientific knowledge in the field of nursing. Harre (1970) states that scientific knowledge consists of two main kinds of information:
This paper is reprinted with permission from the International Orem Society Newsletter (1996)