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Non-Nursing Theories for Students: Expand Your Understanding

This article was written in collaboration with Christine T. and ChatGPT, our little helper developed by OpenAI.

Non-Nursing Theories for Students: Expand Your Understanding

Nursing is a diverse and dynamic field that often draws on knowledge from various disciplines. This blog post will explore non-nursing theories that can complement and enhance your nursing practice. Understanding and integrating these theories can broaden your knowledge base and provide more comprehensive care to your patients. We will discuss the theories’ origins, principles, and practical applications in nursing contexts.

General Systems Theory

The General Systems Theory, introduced by biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, offers a holistic understanding of how various systems interact and function. By applying this theory to nursing, you can gain insights into the relationships between different aspects of patient care and the healthcare system. This section will delve deeper into the theory’s key components and how they relate to nursing practice.

Case Examples:

In a hospital setting, you might use General Systems Theory to analyze how various departments (e.g., pharmacy, laboratory, and radiology) work together to provide coordinated care for patients. By understanding these interdependencies, you can identify opportunities for improvement and optimize patient outcomes.

In a community health program, applying General Systems Theory can help you evaluate the impact of local resources, social services, and public health initiatives on the community’s overall health. This can guide the development of targeted interventions to address specific health needs and reduce disparities.

Using General Systems Theory in a home health agency context can help you better understand the relationship between patient care, caregiver support, and healthcare-provider coordination. This can lead to more efficient care delivery and improved patient satisfaction.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a hierarchy of needs, which outlines the basic human necessities for a fulfilling life. This theory can be relevant to nursing as it helps you address patients’ physical and psychological needs. In this section, we will examine the various levels of the hierarchy and discuss how each can be addressed in nursing care.

Case Examples:

In a hospice care setting, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can guide nurses to prioritize patients’ comfort, pain management, and emotional support. By addressing these needs, nurses can provide compassionate end-of-life care and enhance patients’ quality of life.

In a mental health facility, nurses can use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to ensure that patients receive adequate nutrition, sleep, and social interaction while addressing their emotional and psychological needs. This comprehensive approach can promote recovery and well-being.

In a primary care setting, nurses can use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to develop personalized care plans for patients with chronic conditions. By addressing patients’ physiological, safety, and social needs, nurses can help improve disease management and overall health.

Social Cognitive Theory

Social Cognitive Theory, developed by psychologist Albert Bandura, emphasizes the influence of environment and social factors on individual behavior. This theory can help nurses better understand patients’ behaviors and develop targeted interventions. This section will explore the theory’s core concepts and their implications for nursing practice.

Case Examples:

In an addiction treatment program, nurses can use Social Cognitive Theory to identify environmental and social triggers that contribute to patients’ substance use. By addressing these factors, nurses can help patients develop coping strategies and prevent relapse.

In a diabetes education program, nurses can use Social Cognitive Theory to assess patients’ beliefs about their ability to manage their condition and the role of social support in their disease management. This can inform the development of tailored interventions that empower patients and encourage self-management.

In a public health campaign focused on vaccination, nurses can apply Social Cognitive Theory to understand community beliefs, attitudes, and social norms surrounding vaccination. This information can be used to create targeted messages and interventions that address misconceptions and promote vaccine uptake.

Change Management Theories

Change Management Theories like Lewin’s and Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model provide frameworks for managing change in various settings. These theories can help nurses adapt to new policies or procedures in healthcare settings. This section will compare and contrast these two popular models and discuss their relevance to nursing practice.

Case Examples:

In a hospital merger, nurses can apply Change Management Theories to help staff from different facilities adapt to new policies, procedures, and organizational culture. Nurses can facilitate a successful transition and maintain high-quality patient care by using these theories to guide communication, training, and support.

When introducing a new infection control protocol, nurses can use Change Management Theories to identify potential barriers to staff adoption and develop targeted strategies to address these concerns. This may involve creating educational resources, providing ongoing feedback, and offering opportunities for staff to voice their concerns and suggestions.

In a clinical setting, nurses can apply Change Management Theories to support patients and families during transitions in care, such as moving from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility. By understanding the psychological aspects of change, nurses can provide emotional support, address concerns, and help patients and families adapt to new environments and routines.

Theory of Planned Behavior

The Theory of Planned Behavior, proposed by psychologist Icek Ajzen, predicts and influences individuals’ actions based on their attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control. Nurses can use this theory to design effective interventions for patient adherence. In this section, we will examine the components of the theory and how they can be applied in nursing practice.

Case Examples:

In a smoking cessation program, nurses can use the Theory of Planned Behavior to assess patients’ attitudes, social norms, and perceived control over quitting smoking. Based on this information, nurses can develop tailored interventions that address these factors and increase the likelihood of successful cessation.

Nurses can use the Theory of Planned Behavior to understand patients’ beliefs about pain management and their perceived ability to adhere to prescribed treatments when working with patients with chronic pain. By addressing these factors, nurses can help patients develop self-management strategies and improve their overall quality of life.

In a weight management program, nurses can apply the Theory of Planned Behavior to explore patients’ attitudes toward healthy eating and exercise and their perceptions of social norms and personal control. This information can guide the development of personalized interventions that address patients’ unique needs and motivations.

Emotional Intelligence Theory

Emotional Intelligence Theory, developed by psychologists Peter Salovey and John Mayer, focuses on individuals’ abilities to recognize, understand, and manage emotions. Nurses can use this theory to improve their interpersonal skills and patient interactions. This section will discuss the key components of Emotional Intelligence Theory and how they can be applied in nursing practice.

Case Examples:

During a challenging conversation with a patient or family member, nurses can apply Emotional Intelligence Theory to recognize and validate the emotions expressed while managing their emotional reactions. This can lead to more effective communication and conflict resolution.

In a pediatric setting, nurses can use Emotional Intelligence Theory to develop rapport with young patients and their families by recognizing and responding to their emotions empathetically and supportively. This can enhance patient trust and cooperation during care.

In nursing education, faculty can use Emotional Intelligence Theory to create a supportive learning environment by recognizing students’ emotional needs, providing feedback, and fostering them.


In conclusion, understanding and incorporating non-nursing theories into your practice can help you broaden your knowledge base and provide more comprehensive patient care. By exploring concepts from various disciplines, you can enhance your skills and contribute to the dynamic and interdisciplinary nature of nursing. As the case examples demonstrate, these theories have practical applications in various nursing settings and can improve patient outcomes and satisfaction.

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