A Philosophy of Nursing Forum
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Hello all! Greetings from the great South. As a part of a class assignment. My doctoral students will be answering the following questions on the blog. Please help me guide them and critique their response. Many thanks!

1. Do you agree or disagree with Pesut and Johnson’s assertion that “philosophical inquiry has yet to be positioned as contributing substantially to the field of nursing’s inquiry.” Why or why not?

2. Do you think that ignoring philosophy in nursing “puts nursing at risk”? Why or why not?

3. What can the historical roots of nursing add to the scientific advancement of the profession?
1. Philosophical Inquiry in Nursing

After reading the article by Pesut and Johnson, I do agree that philosophical inquiry has yet to contribute substantially to the field of nursing. While agreeing with Pesut and Johnson, I believe that philosophy and theory needs to be more clearly defined as they relate to nursing. Philosophy has been defined as a love for wisdom. Nurses love wisdom and are continually in search of it. However the thoughts and ideas of nurses if brought forth in other disciplines would be considered philosophical. But due to the substantial amount of objectivity in nursing, the thoughts and ideas are often considered theories. Florence Nightingale’s idea of sanitation and implementation thereof was considered a theory but possessed the characteristics of philosophical inquiry. In an effort to eradicate cholera, Nightingale made an assumption that clean water and cleanliness of the hospital would help. Through her intellectual processing, she made a decision that was grounded in reason. The tool of wonder led to the practice of sanitary methods. Philosophy seeks to understand what is good and right as does nursing. It also challenges and refines knowledge gathered through scientific means. Regardless of the scientific background and reliability of nursing knowledge, the inquiry of philosophy seeks to answer the question ‘is this method good and right for the patient'. Although philosophy has a stance in nursing, it has not taken a solid position that distinguishes certain ideas and thoughts clearly as nursing philosophy. After reading this article the evidence of philosophical inquiry is present but not always referred to as such.

Pesut, B. & Johnson, J. (2008). Reinstating the ‘Queen’: understanding philosophical inquiry in nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing 61(1), 115-121.

2. Nursing at Risk

I believe that if nursing ignores philosophy it will put nursing at risk. Philosophy provides nursing with the basis to ask questions and steadily evolve. It allows nursing the opportunity to build upon its foundation and steadily search for knowledge. Therefore it is important to allow philosophy to have its inquiry into nursing. By allowing philosophy to have its inquiry into nursing this provides nursing with a broader basis upon which nursing can continue to develop as a profession.

3. Historical roots adding to the scientific advancement of the profession

In order for a profession to successfully advance it must be built on a solid foundation and utilize that foundation as stability. Nursing is rooted in the foundational teachings of Florence Nightingale. Nightingale's aim of nursing education is based on caring and serving society. This aim can be seen through Nightingale help to eradicate cholera in the Crimean War by utilizing clean water, improving the conditions of the hospital, and educating nurses. Nightingale also developed a framework that involved caring for the poor and ill, and health education (Sapountzi-Krepia, 2004). Historical roots add value to the ideas, frameworks, and theories being currently developed by nursing. The roots also provide nursing with an opportunity to delve more into philosophy and establish a philosophical inquiry into nursing. The establishment of philosophical inquiry calls for the need to ask questions. Historical roots provide the basis for which questions about nursing are to be asked. Only by asking questions and searching for answers will nursing scientifically advance.

Sapountzi-Krepia, D. (2004). Nursing: Forming the future through the richness of the past. ICUS NursWeb, 19, 1-3.
Although I do understand what you have to say about nursing philosophy, I do not believe that the article reinstating the 'Queen' proves its point about nursing inquiry at all, in my opinion too many doubts were left to fester.
What are some of the doubts that you speak of?
I agree with the statement by Pesut and Johnson (2008). Nurses have not owned philosophical inquiry. As Pesut and Johnson pointed out, Carper (1975) and Walker (1971) produced important philosophical works but did not officially stake their claim to the philosophical nature of the work. They termed it a “systematic analysis” and an “analysis” (p. 116) respectively. So, not only are those outside of nursing unwilling to see nurses as philosophers, but nurses also are not willing to own the position. As Tina said, the evidence of philosophical inquiry in nursing is there but not always recognized as such. Maybe it is easier to accept being classified as a nursing theorist than to try to defend the position of nursing philosopher? However, since when do nurses take the easy route?

Pesut and Johnson (2008) made another good point in that philosophy has not been an integral part of the curriculum in nursing education. This is especially true at the master’s level and below. What are everyone’s thoughts on the need for philosophy in nursing education at the baccalaureate and master’s levels?

I think anything we ignore that contributes to our depth and knowledge in nursing puts the profession at risk. We need to own our knowledge, in whatever aspect, in order to define nursing and declare what makes nursing unique. This helps to establish our identity as a profession and a discipline. As Pesut and Johnson (2008) pointed out, Reed and Ground (1997) proposed a few benefits for nursing as a result of “good philosophy” (p. 119). Essentially, philosophy helps to refine existing knowledge and allows us to be able to defend our positions in nursing. Maybe it is a lack of sufficient philosophical inquiry that keeps the identity crisis of nursing going.

For two years I have attended a Heideggerian hermeneutics institute for which the discussions are led by a professor of philosophy. He has also attended for the last two years, and I still think (though he has never said this) he is amazed and sometimes shocked by the degree to which a room full of nurses can engage in philosophical discussion. Nurses are still viewed by many as “do-ers” and medication pushers. The more I read for this course, the more I see the fault for this lays at our own feet.
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