This introduction to the subsequent reports of the Development Group focuses on my understanding of the complexity of the neverending task of theory development and refinement. Development of the self-care deficit theory of nursing encompasses the initial expression of the theory, the creation of insightful conceptual models, formalization of the main conceptual elements of the models, and uncovering the substantive structure, that is, the structural components of the elements. This is the step that leads to identification, description, and explanation of the concrete entities of nursing practice. The pathway of theory formalization and development is not only long but complex, as expressed in the following example.
The group of nursing scholars, the Nursing Development Conference Group, worked to formalize the conceptual elements of the models in the 1960s and 1970s. They drew upon their knowledge of nursing and abilities to work with elements of many sciences and disciplines foundational to understanding nursing—biology, psychology, sociology, the broad field of human behavior, cultural anthropology, the medical sciences, the public health sciences, medical sociology, social philosophy, and education. We explored Sommerhoffs analytical biology, Wiener's work in cybernetics, systems theory as used by behavioral scientists, and various approaches to action theory. The majority of us had essential foundations in logic, epistemology, ethics, and some of us in metaphysics. We were all nurses
This chapter was originally presented via video at the Fifth International Self-Care Deficit Nursing
Theory Conference, August 9, 1997, in Leuven, Belgium.