History and the Famous
Nursing Theories

Nursing Theories and History of Nursing? okay let's START!

The Definition of Nursing as a Profession is unique because it deal with humane and holistic nursing responses of clients and families to actual and potential health problems.

Let me share to you my OWN definition of Nursing, "Nursing is an Art of Critical Thinking and Caring".

How about YOU? Share your own nursing definition.
Thanks in advance for sharing.


Nursing History is as old as medicine. Through history, nursing and medicine have had an interdependent relationship. During the Hippocrates era, medicine practiced without nursing, and during the Middle Ages, nursing practiced without rationale medicine (Donahue, 1985).

In ancient cultures, religious beliefs and myths were the basis for health care and medical practice. Nurses delivered custodial care and depended on physicians or priests for direction (Kelly, 1981).

Through medical and nursing history the midwife has been accepted in a role of assist during childbirth. Under the influence of Christianity, nurses gained respect, and the practice of nursing expanded (Donahue, 1985) The Sisters of Charity (1633) founded by St. Vincent de Paul cared for people in hospitals, asylums and poor-houses. Then Louise de Marillac established perhaps the first educational program to be associated with a nursing order. The Sisters of Charity were introduced in America by Mother Elizabeth Seton in 1809 and later changed their name to the Daughters of Charity (Donahue, 1985).

In 1847, Florence Nightingale went to Kaiserswerth to work with the Deaconesses (Woodham-Smith, 1983; Donahue, 1985). The Civil War (1861-1865) stimulated the growth of Nursing in the United States. Clara Barton (who founded the American Red Cross in 1882), Harriet Tubman, and others tended soldiers on the battlefields, cleansing their wounds, meeting their basic needs, and comforting them in death.

After the Civil war, in 1890s, nursing flourished more through the efforts of Mary Agnes Snively and Isabel Hampton Robb, the Nurses’ Associated Alumni of the United States and Canada was founded now known as American Nurses’ Association and the Canadian Nurses Association. Early 20th century, Mary Adelaide Nutting was instrumental in the affiliation of nursing education with universities; she became the first professor of nursing in a university in 1907. In 1923, the Rockefeller Foundation funded a survey of nursing education, The Goldmark Report.

As nursing education developed, nursing practice expanded and specialty nursing organizations such as Association of Operating Room Nurses, Association of Critical Care Nurses and Oncology Nursing Society were formed. In 1965, the National Commission on Nursing and Nursing Education reported that nursing roles and responsibilities should be clarified in relation to those of other health care professionals.

From the school that I graduated, Universidad de Sta. Isabel (a private vincentian university owned and run by the Daughters of Charity in Naga City, Philippines), I am very privileged to gain knowledge of St. Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac and Mother Seton (a hospital in our place where I was confined for dengue fever!) in my early years. They are the key personalities that enriched the legacy of nursing history.


  • Know and use nursing frameworks and theories.
  • Be available to others.
  • Value the other as a human presence.
  • Respect differences in view.
  • Own what you believe and be accountable for your actions
  • Move on to the new and untested.
  • Connect with others.
  • Take pride in self.
  • Like what you do.
  • Recognize the moments of joy in the struggles of living.
  • Appreciate mystery and be open to new discoveries.
  • Be competent in your chosen area.
  • Rest and begin anew.
From Parse RR. Essentials for practicing the art of nursing, Nurs Sci Quarterly 2(3):111, 1989.


- are concepts with an explanation for some phenomenon that is actually based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning to support nursing practice.

Major Nursing Theorists

  • Hildegard Peplau (1909)

  • Virginia Henderson (1897)

  • Imogene King (1923)

  • Dorothea Orem (1914)

  • Ida Jean Orlando (Pelletier)(1926)

  • Helen Erickson (1936)

  • Isabel Hampton Robb (1860–1910)

  • Martha E. Rogers (1914)

  • Callista Roy (1939)

  • Katherine Kolcaba (1955)

  • Faye Abdellah (1960)

  • Madeleine Leininger (1925)

  • Betty Neuman (1924)

  • Joyce Travelbee (1966)

  • Dorothy Johnson (1968)

  • Myra Levine (1973)

  • Jean Watson (1979)

According to nursing history the most famous of all nurses is Florence Nightingale. Nightingale never actually devised a nursing theory science but was recognized with same by others who considered her personal works and communications into a theoretical framework such as her well-known value of nursing which is Bedside Care Nursing.

Examples of Nursing Models

The models used vary greatly between institutions and countries.

Psychiatric Nursing
  • Roy's Nursing model

  • Tidal Nursing model

Children's Nursing
  • Casey's Nursing model

Perinatal Nursing
  • Ramona T Mercer maternal role attainment

Adult Nursing
  • Nightingale's Nursing model

  • Roper, Logan and Tierney

  • Orem's Model

Community and Rehabilitation Nursing
  • Orem's Model

Critical Nursing
  • Synergy model

Holistic Nursing
  • Rogers: Science of Unitary Human Beings

  • McGill Model of Nurses

  • Parse: Human Becoming

  • Erickson, Tomlin & Swain: Modeling and Role-Modeling

  • Newman: Health as Expanding Consciousness

With all of these nursing theories and models there are two major teachings that stayed in my heart. Bedside Care as a philosophy of nursing and Holistic Nursing to care for a patient aiming to address spiritual, financial, psychological, physical in short all or integral aspects of a patient.

As much as I have time, I pray for them. sing with them, laugh with them, cry with them and just spend time with them, this gives them a whole new meaning of self-worth.

I remember memorizing these nursing theories before exams and before class recitations, not to mention the group thesis debates that need to be supported by these nursing theorists, it was nerve-wracking!
We have discussed the Definition of Nursing and Nursing History.
Click the link below for a Summary of Nursing Theories!

Click here for a SUMMARY of Nursing Theories

My Favourite Nursing Theories

A. Hildegard E. Peplau R.N. MAN PhD

From the nursing history she was born September 1, 1909 in Reading Pennsylvania. She was considered a Psychiatric Nurse of the Century "mother of psychiatric nursing" from Military Medicine in Health. Peplau is the author of Interpersonal Nursing (1952). She introduced the Nurse-Patient Relationship based on PSYCHODYNAMISM “The Process of the Nurse Patient Interaction”

According to this philosophy of nursing, nursing needs to be able to understand one’s own behavior, actions and conduct to help other identifies challenges and difficulties in order to apply values of human relations to the dilemma that occur at all levels of experiences.

According to Nursing - These three faculties such as Spirit,Body and Mind contributes to Health and Wellness of a patient.

Books by Hildegard E. Peplau

Find out her Definition of Nursing
Interpersonal Theory in Nursing Practice - 1989
Interpersonal Relations in Nursing - 1988
Teoría interpersonal en la práctica - 1996 - 473 pages

Peplaus’ 6 Roles of Nursing

  • 1. Leadership Nursing Role
    A working relationship with a nurse that gives guidance to patient

  • 2. Surrogate Nursing Role
    Like standing in for a person in the patients’ life similar to a substitute

  • 3. Counseling Nursing Role
    In partnership with a patient to discus existing problems

  • 4. Stranger
    Accepting the patient objectively and indiscriminately

  • 5. Resource Nursing Person
    Clarifying and interpreting the medical plan to a patient

  • 6. Teaching Nursing Role
    Teaching, offering information and assisting a patient to learn

B. Virginia Henderson (1964)

Defined Nursing as:

assisting the individual sick or well in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to a peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will, or knowledge. And to do this in such a way as to help him gain independence as rapidly as possible.

Hendersons's 14 basic needs

1. Breathe normally.
2. Eat and drink adequately.
3. Eliminate by all avenues of elimination.
4. Move and maintain a desirable position.
5. Sleep and rest.
6. Select suitable clothing; dress and undress.
7. Maintain body temperature within normal range.
8. Keep the body clean and well groomed.
9. Avoid dangers in the environment.
10. Communicate with others.
11. Worship according to faith.
12. Work at something that provides a sense of accomplishment.
13. Participate in various forms of recreation.
14. Learn, discover, or satisfy the curiosity that leads to normal development and health.

These two Nursing Theories are my favourite. How about YOU?
Do you have any preferences?

For more in-depth research regarding Nursing Theories, Nursing History, Holistic Nursing and Philosophy of Nursing visit your libraries (school / work place) or at work (manuals and references)

We have discussed historical key person that constitute to the legacy of nursing practice. Now, it's time to hear from you. You can contribute local nursing theorists from your country!

Tell a Friend

Share your LOCAL nursing theorists!

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.
First Name*
E-Mail Address*
Do you know any
nursing theorist
from your country?
Do you want to
share it with us?*

Please enter the word that you see below.


Don’t worry – your information are totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you a Thank You note
for your contribution.

Return from Famous Nursing Theories to Nursing Avenue

Follow US!

Want to Advertise With Us?
Our Sponsorship Policy

Exciting Contests!
Cartoon Drawing
Logo Making

Share Your Pics!

Online Shopping

Shop Now!

Nursing Jobs?
Find Your Next Job

SendOutCards ...
"Changing Lives,
One Card at a Time"

Send a free REAL card today!

Thank You for
Your Kind Words!

Nice work! It’s about time someone from our profession speaks out and do something about the dilemmas and concerns for IEN's here in Canada.
(Haninaduds, Canada)

Valuable knowledge & forums. Very good for students
and even professionals.
(Renee, USA)

Hi... I really like ur site very much. Its the first of it's kind
that I have seen, dedicated solely to nurses and nursing profession. I am from Nepal, a small country in South East Asia. I am a
student nurse awaiting results
of final year of 4 years(BSN). Some of the experiences
that you shared seemed like our own and really touched my heart. I am happy that if I need some guidance, I can contact you, and am sure I'll get positive response. Your site is a blessing to all nurses (and others as well).
Keep up your good work!
(Elisha, Nepal)

These are great nursing prayers.
(satnurse, Canada)

Thank you so much for your time and guidance in addressing my concerns. I hope to keep in touch with you until I finally have the chance to work in Canada.
God bless you :)
(Salome, Philippines)

Just want to be a part
of your awesome site!!!
(Lori, USA)

See More ...

free counters

Looking for Inspiring Quotes?



Nursing Jobs

Nurses Prayer

Nursing Skills


Be in Control

Power of Words

Nursing Avenue Newsletter

About the Author

Contact Us!