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Jean Watson’s Human Caring Theory: Impact and Application in Nursing

Jean Watson's Human Caring Theory: Impact and Application in Nursing

Nursing theories are essential to healthcare workers, as they teach the principles that reinforce practice and expand nurses’ knowledge. Overall, there exist many theories that explain the dynamics of nursing. One of them is the human caring theory, which is a mid-range nursing theory. Jean Watson, a nurse theorist and a distinguished professor, hypothesized the theory from 1975-1979. Furthermore, the author, who received her degree in nursing from the University of Colorado, founded the Watson Caring Science Institute. Notably, she attained her Ph.D. from the same institution.

Thus, her personal views, experiences, and studies encouraged Watson to develop the theory. As such, the researcher’s husband committed suicide, and she lost her eye in an accident in 1997. Professor Watson has been acknowledged far and wide for her tremendous input in the nursing field. In 2013, the American Academy of Nursing awarded Watson the highest honor of the ‘Living Legend’. In 1998, New York University declared her a Distinguished Nursing Scholar. Subsequently, she was presented with the Fetzer Institute National Norman Cousins Award in 1999. This proves that Jean Watson has significantly contributed to the nursing profession.

Ideally, Jean Watson’s theory primarily addresses the practice of nurses while delivering care to their patients. According to Watson, caregiving is intricately connected to the well-being of a patient. Therefore, nurses ought to master the best practice in providing medical services to prepare better plans that will promote recovery, prevent illnesses, and restore one’s natural health. Consequently, the theory is recognized by other names, such as the ‘philosophy and theory of transpersonal caring.

Theory Description

It can be inferred that Watson’s theory of human caring employs deductive reasoning. By definition, deductive reasoning refers to the process of analyzing multiple premises and their validity before finally reaching a conclusion that is deemed valid. As mentioned above, Watson was influenced to develop the human caring theory by the accident in which she lost her eye and the sudden death of her husband. Afterward, Watson suggested interventions to deal with conceptual and empirical problems, which she called the curative factors, to imply the strategies that reflect a caring process, which helps patients maintain their health or die peacefully. Hence, her ideas expressed through curative factors formed the human caring theory. Therefore, Watson developed the theory through deductive reasoning.

Watson’s caring theory comprises various concepts defined in a theoretical manner. The concepts include human beings, nursing, and health. The transpersonal and actual caring occasions and society are among the most significant concepts highlighted by Watson. As mentioned earlier, the author describes these concepts in a hypothetical rather than operational manner. For example, she describes the science of people and health.

Additionally, Watson consistently uses these terms as she explains her theory. The given approach is predominantly about caregiving concerning the patient’s well-being. In this regard, all the outlined concepts reflect the core subject of the theory. For instance, the author repeatedly uses the term ‘transpersonal’ in her research when explaining the relationship between human beings to prove how a nurse’s behavior may affect a healthcare consumer and vice versa.

Moreover, Watson explicitly presents these concepts. By definition, an explicit concept conveys causal, statistical, definitional, or syntactic information. Within the human caring theory, Watson expresses the key concepts in a definitional manner easily comprehendible to anybody. She introduces all her concepts by either defining them or outlining the respective components that build them. For example, the author asserts that nursing consists of illnesses intervened by esthetic, professional, scientific, personal and ethical human activities.

Notably, some of the major concepts outlined by Watson are interrelated. For instance, the transpersonal and actual caring occasion concepts are connected. The theory of actual caring occasion implies that upon entering a relationship, patients and nurses decide how to behave towards each other, thereby predetermining the context of that relationship. On the other hand, the concept of transpersonal caring suggests that a nurse’s actions affect a patient and vice versa. Thus, it can be ascertained that these two concepts are associate basing on a common assumption that treatment goes beyond medicine into personal relationships. Additionally, the concept of human beings and nursing are connected so that both place a premium on an individual as a whole rather than his/her parts.


The human caring theory is based on various implicit and explicit assumptions. Firstly, the theory assumes that caring comprises curative factors that lead to satisfying specific human needs. The second assumption is that a caring environment provides room for the development of a patient while at the same time allowing him to choose the preferred treatment method. Thirdly, the theory reveals that effective healthcare services enhance the well-being of an individual. Fourthly, it suggests that the element of caring accepts the contemporary medical condition of a patient and is ready to accept his/her condition in the future. Fifthly, the human caring theory holds that caring and curing complement each other. When one is insufficient, the other is bound to fail too. The sixth point is that Watson asserts that caring can only be demonstrated and felt interpersonal.

Additionally, the human caring theory corresponds to the four concepts of the nursing meta paradigm. The concepts include person, health, environment, and nursing. The concept of person points to consumers of medical services or their families. The principle provides that practitioners should consider how a patient defines family when planning care. Arguably, the human caring theory does not cover this principle. Nonetheless, the latter relates to the concept of transpersonal and actual caring occasions, which dwells on the relationship between a nurse and a patient.

The second focus of caregiving is health. The principle is defined as a patient. As such, what one person considers healthy may differ from another individual’s views. Besides, this applies to the quality of life that healthcare consumers regard as acceptable. Furthermore, this doctrine involves people’s physical, psychological, emotional, mental, spiritual and intellectual capacities. Conversely, the theory of human caring defines health as the preexisting unity between the body, the soul and the mind.

Thirdly, the caregiving principle of environment suggests that patients’ external and internal surroundings may affect their health. These external and internal factors include culture, genetics, immune system, mental state, politics, level of education, career, ecology and economics. Notably, the human caring theory does not cover this meta-paradigm. Nonetheless, the principle of the environment is in line with the concepts of transpersonal and actual caring occasions, which imply that the social relationship between patients and practitioners affects the health of the former.

The fourth focus of caregiving is nursing. Thus, this meta-paradigm comprises the most fundamental actions and interventions of nurses. The concept entails practitioners applying professional knowledge, technical and procedural skills, and a hands-on approach. The human caring theory describes this meta-paradigm as the science of human health and people in general. Hence, it deals with diseases and illnesses that medical attendants counteract.

Additionally, clarity and simplicity are among the most prominent strengths of the human caring theory. The primary function of the approach is to prove to nurses the importance of caregiving for the well-being of patients. Watson explains that patients rely on practitioners to relieve anxiety and fear that come with illnesses. Moreover, it is inferred that medical workers are more likely to engage patients effectively if an excellent social relationship exists between them. Arguably, the author outlines the basis of the whole theory through the points mentioned above. In essence, it contributes to better comprehending the unfamiliar concept of caregiving in a nursing setting.

Most importantly, these assertions enhance the clarity of the theory. Apart from that, it is relatively simple to understand. Watson illustrates the theory predominantly through the transpersonal concept. Using the theory, Watson attempts to depict the relevance of interconnectedness between human beings and healing. As a result, this teaches nurses to develop such characteristics to improve the health of their patients.


Watson’s human caring theory is highly relevant in the field of nursing. As such, it teaches nurses about cultivating a good rapport with their patients. Therefore, establishing a harmonious social relationship includes the following:

  • Paying attention to body language
  • Improving listening skills
  • Gaining respect and genuine concern for patients

Specifically, this theory has contributed a lot to my awareness of the field of practice. Thus, I will implement this knowledge by being polite to patients, continually reassuring them and considering their backgrounds. Furthermore, it will help me to deal with individuals who are used to conventional medicine by striking an understanding with them regarding the method of treatment that they prefer.

📎 References

1. Branch, C., Deak, H., Hiner, C., & Holzwart, T. (2016). Four nursing meta paradigms. IU South Bend Undergraduate Research Journal, 16, 123-132.
2. Watson, J. (1997). The theory of human caring: retrospective and prospective. Nursing Science Quarterly, 10(1), 49-52.
3. Wayne, G. (2016). Jean Watson. Nurselabs. Retrieved from https://nurseslabs.com/jean-watsons-philosophy-theory-transpersonal-caring/