Since its inception, the nursing profession continues to experience remarkable development in the healthcare system. However, it is still unclear whether nursing is a science, an art or both (Barrett, 2017). With the ongoing focus on nursing as a science, the artistic aspect of nursing is neglected. In fact, as the nursing education continues to advance and offer significant opportunities to provide quality services, more attention is being given to the scientific aspect of nursing while the artistic part of nursing does not come into focus. However, similarly to how science is a critical part of nursing, the art of nursing is also a fundamental principle of patient care (Palos, 2014). It is vital to illustrate that nursing commingles science which emphasizes the highly systematized, organized, and accurate knowledge with art which underscores the interaction at a human level or the human touch associated with the profession.
Nursing as a science emphasizes the importance of the profound expert knowledge that equips nurses with the confidence needed to deal with different patients. For example, nursing practice requires the genuine understanding of the nursing processes (assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation) which refer to organized steps aimed to provide excellent care (Kostovich & Clementi, 2014). An assessment involves the gathering of patient information through physical examinations, interviews, or patient history to identify the patients’ physical and psychological status. Moreover, diagnosis involves the process of making an educated judgment about the actual health problem of a patient and determining the course of treatment. While planning, a nurse develops a plan of action (patient-based nursing care plan) that considers the symptoms as well as the measurable goal for the beneficial outcome (Villarruel & Fairman, 2015). During the implementation, a nurse follows the plan of action while the evaluation focuses on the outcomes of the intervention actions.
Furthermore, nursing as a science focuses on evidence-based practice (EBP) in offering care. EBP refers to a clinical decision-making process which is based on the use of theory-derived, research-based knowledge to inform decisions about care delivery when detecting, understanding, and responding to signs and symptoms experienced by patients (Barrett, 2017). Current nursing practices are related not only to clinical experience but also to recent research findings, the patient’s needs, values and preferences, and the context in which one is practicing. EBP is a significant part of nursing science that continues to be effective in improving patient outcomes, helping to provide high-quality patient-centered care, reducing the costs, and eliminating outdated practices (Palos, 2014). The widespread integration of EBP in nursing practice means that the significant number of clinical nurses adopts it thereby generating new knowledge to enhance patient care.
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Apart from evidence-based practice, another expression of nursing as a science is the knowledge of disease. Nurses must know pathophysiology which is a profound understanding of physical and biological abnormalities that occur within the body as a result of disease (Villarruel & Fairman, 2015). In offering care, nurses demonstrate a wide range of knowledge related to disease mechanisms, medications and their side effects, alternative treatments and disease management (Villarruel & Fairman, 2015). This expertise forms the foundation for the main responsibilities of nursing practice which includes ordering diagnostic tests, treating acute and chronic illnesses, managing medications, preventing disease, and supporting patients, families, and communities (Barrett, 2017). With the extensive knowledge of diseases, nurses provide a higher quality of care for their patients.
Additionally, nursing as a science requires familiarity with medical technology. As technological advancements dominate healthcare settings, it is essential for nurses to master the use of patient care technologies such as electronic health records, online charting systems, diagnostic devices, alarm systems, and lifting equipment that allows lifting of patients safely for both patients and nurses (Villarruel & Fairman, 2015). Furthermore, nurses must know how to use pagers or cell phones, which enhances communication between nurses, physicians, other members of the health careteam and patients, GPS tagging and tracking of medical equipment. Technology enables nurses to deliver optimal and efficient care thereby improving patient experience, satisfaction, and engagement (Barrett, 2017). The continuing technological advancement in healthcare encourages the inclusion of technical courses in nursing curricular to ensure familiarity. Overall, nursing as a science focuses on the practical application of learned skills and knowledge to provide safe and competent care while upholding integrity, professionalism, and good ethical standards.
Exemplary nursing practice requires that nursing as a science based on highly systematized, organized, and accurate knowledge should include the art of nursing which gives a human touch to the care of patients. Nursing provides an environment that promotes the health and wellbeing of patients as the nurse independently and collaboratively strive to respond to patients’ needs (Kostovich & Clementi, 2014). Research indicates that the understanding of the nursing process, evidence-based practice, knowledge of disease and technology are not sufficient to provide effective high-quality care. Principle objective of nursing is caring for the patients at an interpersonal level; the art of nursing is critical to transmit the nursing knowledge and to also reassure the patients to trust that the nurse considers their needs (Henry, 2018). Nursing as an art is based on patient-nurse interaction at a human level demonstrated through holistic care, compassion, and positive communication.
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The expression of nursing as an art focuses on the provision of holistic care. Holistic nursing is aimed at caring for the physical and psychological conditions of a patient rather than just the physical body. Nurses often face high patient loads coupled with time constraints, being forced to offer only treatment and to check the next patient (Kostovich & Clementi, 2014). Such attitudes can leave patients feeling that they are merely a number, a diagnosis, or a burden. Although it is critical to be task-oriented while carrying out responsibilities, nurses recognize the need to utilize the available time to create a patient-nurse relationship that encourages healing. By offering holistic care nurses strive to address physical (body), psychological (mind), and spiritual (soul) needs by offering individualized care and considering the social and cultural differences and preferences of their patients (Palos,2014). Additionally, holistic nursing extends care to the patient’s family; it explains why nurses respect the patients and their families (Henry, 2018). The provision of holistic care proves nursing to be an art that offers more than mere physical treatment.
Apart from holistic care, nursing as an art also values compassionate care. Compassion is an integral part of nursing through which nurses relate to their patients not only on an ‘informative or scientific’ level but also on a human level (Palos, 2014). Despite the amount of knowledge they might possess, nurses are human beings. In the process of interaction, they tend to form bonds with their patients while still maintaining professionalism and ethical standards. Thus, nurses are able to empathize with patients’ fears and other feelings of agony that they experience as a result of their illness (Henry, 2018). Nurses often find themselves holding hands, listening to secrets and dreams of their patients. Compassionate care is the part of artistic nursing. Moreover, the research indicates that compassionate care plays a critical role in improving patient outcomes and well-being.
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Effective and positive communication also illustrates the nature of nursing as an art. Nursing practice considers the need for positive and effective communication with patients that enhances the caring process. With effective and positive communication, nurses can fulfill the patients’ emotional needs and wishes, explain the plan of care in a way that patients can understand, and also create comfort instead of fear when educating patients and their families (Palos, 2014). Nursing embraces therapeutic communication that conveys a message of respect, empathy, and understanding by paying attention to the concerns of their patients and by providing appropriate responses. Positive patient outcomes associated with effective communication include shorter hospital stays, alleviation of pain, decreased anxiety, and an optimistic outlook about recovery (Palos, 2014). With effective communication, nurses manage to build positive relationships with the patients that lead to patient satisfaction and improved quality of care.
In conclusion, high-quality care in nursing requires an integration of science characterized by concise and accurate knowledge and art that emphasizes the human touch in care. Nursing as a science involves the mastery of knowledge about the nursing process, evidence-based practice, familiarity with disease and technology. Furthermore, nursing as an art has its foundation on holistic care, compassion, and positive communication that encourage patient-nurse interaction at a human level. Nursing as a combination of science and art implies that both of them complement each other and cannot exist separately. Clearly, the science of nursing cannot profoundly improve health conditions if patients do not believe that the nurse offering care is truly devoted to a positive outcome. For that reason, it is critical to realize that to be an excellent nurse, one should focus on the combination of both the art and the science of nursing. In fact, it should be a priority so that the nurses could make the choices that are most beneficial to the patient’s care and can aid in quick recovery.