Since the beginning of time, men and women have engaged in the search for reality and truth. This search is called philosophy. Nursing philosophy examines the relationship between truth and ideals in nursing. The examination of these truths and ideals leads to beliefs and ideals that form the framework for nursing practice. This framework is meant to guide the day-to-day process of nurses.
Nursing philosophy can be individual or it can be global. Individual philosophies belong specifically to the nurse and reflect the nurse's values, logic, morals, and ethics.
Global philosophies are usually those that belong to nursing schools or organizations, or to different bodies of knowledge as a whole, such as colleges, hospitals, or nursing organizations.
Nursing philosophy is dynamic and changes over time, and with circumstances. It is influenced by the era and the environment in which it is practiced. Nursing philosophy and theory are intricately related. Renowned nursing theorists such as Florence Nightingale and Dorothea Orem are also nursing philosophers.
If it can be said that nursing philosophy is the search for truth in nursing, then it can be said that nursing theory is a tentative prediction about the outcome of that search. Nursing philosophy forms the frame of reference for the scientific view of the nursing process through the development of a logical body of scientific evidence. Nursing philosophy gives the practice of nursing credibility and defines it as a profession.
When nurses discuss the morality of assisted suicide, or verbalize the belief that all terminally ill patients should be pain free, that is the expression of philosophy.
When nurses make predictions about whether nursing intervention A will work better than intervention B for pain management, then theories are formed.
When nurses find out through testing that nursing intervention A really does work better than intervention B, then a logical body of scientific evidence is developed.
So, it becomes easy to see how philosophy, theory, and science flow from one concept to another with each one being interdependent upon the other. Individual philosophies can be combined with the philosophies of others to become global philosophies, and these philosophies can have a tremendous impact upon the way nursing is practiced through the development of scientific theory.
With that being said, it is important for each individual nurse to examine their own nursing philosophy, for this is the grassroots core to furthering nursing's scientific logic.