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Understanding the Work of Nurse Theorists.

Understanding the Work of Nurse Theorists by Kathleen Sitzman and Lisa Wright Eichelberger; Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2004; 185 pages, $34.95

Nursing theory can be difficult for students at all levels to understand. Designed for baccalaureate nursing students and using aesthetic methods to introduce scholarship, this book is different from any book on nursing theory published in the past. By emphasizing that theory is relevant to present and future nursing practice, and that students are not expected to become experts, Understanding the Work of Nurse Theorists provides opportunities for creativity, curiosity, and inventiveness for those seeking to discover what the theorists really thought.

The book starts with a simple review of nursing theory, explains why theories are important to nursing, and discusses the use of theory in research, education, and practice. Each section includes questions that can be used to stimulate discussion, such as, "Is it possible to firmly determine which theories are correct?" It is made clear that nursing practice is tied to human interaction and that precise conclusions are often not possible when dealing with human science.

The chapters that follow focus on the development of nursing theory and testing and evaluating theories. A highlight is the use of art to elucidate theory. For example, the author uses works by the the postimpressionist painter Georges Seurat to teach the theories that define nursing, those of Nightingale, Henderson, Weidenbach, and Watson. Seurat used pointillism to create vibrant depictions of everyday life. With pointillism, tiny dots of pure color are applied to a canvas. When viewed from a distance, the eye mixes the colors to create different shades and hues. In the author's analogy, each theory is composed of distinct points that, when mixed together, will create a different impression for each viewer. The lack of boundaries in Seurat's paintings reflects the boundlessness in nursing.

The grand theories, those of Levine, Neuman, Orem, Roy, and Leininger, are studied with the use of mandala art. Mandalas are forms in which a central point is surrounded by many symmetrically arranged elements. An infinite number of patterns may be formed around the focal points.

Middle-range theories are studied with origami, the art of folding paper into specific designs. These theories are described as specific nursing actions, processes, or concepts that provide direction for specific nursing activities. Orlando, Kolcaba, Pender, and Peplau are discussed in this section.

The last section uses space photography to elucidate the theories of Martha Rogers and Margaret Newman. These theories, described as defying classification, are typically difficult for nurses to understand. Yet, they challenge traditional thinking, stimulate dialogue, and provide a foundation for contemplating the future of nursing.

This use of the esthetic way of knowing to elucidate nursing theory provides a creative way for undergraduates to grasp the generalized concepts of nursing theory and their application to practice, research, and education. While clearly designed for undergraduate students, this book could help bring nursing theory back to the bedside.

reviewed by Donna H. Taliaferro, PhD, RN, associate professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
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Author:Taliaferro, Donna H.
Publication:Nursing Education Perspectives
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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