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Adopting a Personal Nursing Philosophy

Published October 23, 2013 3:55 PM by Frank Visco

A recent class project required me to "create" my own personal nursing philosophy. A quick Google search shows this is a somewhat common rite of passage for nursing students, and while I eventually got it done, the whole endeavor seemed a bit unnecessary, because it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the vast majority of “personal nursing philosophies” don’t basically re-package the salient points of holistic nursing.

To be clear, I have no problem with that. It’s just that, as far as I’m concerned, holistic nursing should be to the profession of nursing, what a thermos is to a vacuum flask or a zipper is to clasp locker. Holistic nursing so readily encapsulates everything the field strives for and has striven for since the time of Florence Nightingale, that I think it is pointless to pretend it is something different.

Yes, nursing is both a science and an art, and, yes, it should be an interactive process involving the patient in their own care. I love everything about those ideas, but I won’t be able to communicate it better than someone like Hildegard Peplau did, and so I’d rather just say I adhere to that school of thinking and dispense with the notion I could ever improve upon philosophical perfection. So, I was left to wonder, "Can a nursing philosophy still be 'personal' when it's so widely adopted?"

Ultimately, I suppose it can. I truly believe all people just want to be treated like they matter. Unfortunately, our society has a natural pull toward objectification, especially in customer service industries where we all basically become numbers. That may be infuriating if you’re waiting in line at the DMV or calling IT support, but it can be downright demoralizing in the medical arena. I also believe most people are intimidated by health and medical terminology, and that a lack of understandable information only works to further dehumanize a patient. It’s scary to be so in the dark, especially in matters concerning your health or the health of a loved one, but oftentimes people are too timid, too unsure, too overwhelmed to get the simple answers. And I think the medical field as a whole does not do the best job of helping these patients overcome those hurdles to ensure better outcomes.

When I walk into a hospital, I try to become the best me I can be. I smile easily, and say hello to everyone. I make sure to say things like “What can I do for you” and “Don’t feel bad, you’re just making me look good.” I try to explain what the vital signs mean and how adverse lab values are affecting the patient. Sometimes I even hum or sing. My sunny energy makes my fellow students laugh, and I get teased a bit for starting conversations with the man in the elevator or the woman waiting in line at the cafeteria. But I still do my best to channel my inner George Bailey when I’m in the hospital, not because I’m the nicest guy around, but because I believe most of the people who find themselves in a hospital can use the kindness.

Offering kindness. Restoring dignity. Maintaining humanity. Assuring understanding. Those eight words are all you need to understand my personal nursing philosophy. I know it’s not a revolutionary one. It liberally steals from the thoughts of nursing theorists like Nightingale, Peplau and Henry Stack Sullivan, not to mention those of Fred Rogers, Mother Teresa, Jesus, Muhammad, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lao-Tse, and hundreds of other figures with far more philosophical mettle than I’ll ever possess. But it works. And I like it. So I’m going to stick with it. 



Dear Frank,

It was with great pleasure that I read your article. I too believe that all Nursing is based on a holistic perspective that only by facilitating health of the whole person can we hope to help them achieve their greatest state of health and well-being. Nightingale as well as many other great Nursing leaders have supported and espoused this philosophy. If we believe that people are greater than the sum of their parts and that all the parts of our being interface, interact, and affect each other then how can we continue to care for people from the perspective of the "heart attack in room 228"? It is exciting to see that the focus for the ACA and healthcare transformation is health promotion, wellness, well-being and management of chronic health problems. Finally we are getting back to our roots in Nursing and based on the art and science of nursing we can be at the national table to move the transformation forward. For people who are interested in learning about getting national certification in Holistic Nursing go to

Margaret Erickson, Holistic Nursing - Executive Director, AHNCC October 30, 2013 11:17 AM
Cedar Park TX

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