How to Figure Out Your Personal Philosophy of Nursing
One of the most common assignments in nursing school is to help students articulate their personal values and beliefs about their nursing career — in other words, writing a personal philosophy of nursing. In this post, I’ll give you some tips to help you consider how to uncover your true values and beliefs about professional nursing, so you can write your personal philosophy of nursing.
Your Personal Philosophy of Nursing: Your WHY, WHAT, and HOW
I would bet that at some point in your nursing school experience — undergrad or graduate school — you will be asked to write a personal philosophy or personal mission statement about nursing. This is a common assignment in nursing theory class, but you might also write this statement in your professional nursing or nursing role course (i.e., any course that introduces you to the role and function of the nurse or advanced practice nurse).
Trust me when I tell you that this is not a “busy work” assignment. (No nursing faculty member has time to waste on developing and grading an assignment that doesn’t enhance or enrich your learning.) Being able to articulate your personal beliefs is important so that you are clear, in your own mind, about what you expect of your professional nursing-self. Expressing your beliefs and values about nursing can give you clarity about your role and your purpose in life.
As I noted, many theory teachers have their students express their personal philosophy of nursing. This type of assignment in a nursing theory class is valued because helps the student engage at a concrete level with the often highly abstract world of philosophy and theory. It is a tangible way to understand WHY you want to be a nurse, WHAT you believe about being a nurse, and HOW you will strive to be the best nurse you can be. If you really think about your beliefs and values about nursing and the nursing profession, you will have a blueprint that will ground you and drive you through the rest of your career!
Many times, students will write their personal statements as what they think their philosophy is or should be – though, the final product may not be based in reality. Students are afraid to be judged by their instructors and peers, so they may write what they think the faculty wants to hear. But writing about some fantasy nurse will not bring clarity or deeper understanding for your nursing life.
How Do You Figure Out Your Personal Philosophy of Nursing?
Writing your personal philosophy of nursing is all about critical reflection. Exercises in critical reflection assist in “building theoretical understanding and promote confidence in learning…. and in discussing nursing theories” (Hernandez, 2009, p. 343, 347). Critical reflection of your own nursing practice will help you understand theory and conceptual model development from a personal perspective. By reflecting on your own personal clinical practice experiences you will participate in an internal dialogue and examination of your behaviors that should stimulate your philosophical ideas about the four nursing metaparadigm concepts (Hernandez, 2009).
Modifying the process described by Hernandez (2009), when I have given this assignment, I have the students write about their clinical experiences and then examine those experiences to identify their assumptions, beliefs, and values. Because the clinical narratives are based on the student’s actual nursing practice experiences and interactions, critical examination of those narratives can illuminate the assumptions, beliefs, and values that the student really holds. Having the student critically reflect on their clinical practice enables them to recognize, and then articulate, their personal philosophy of nursing and about nursing’s four metaparadigm concepts.
I like the idea of recording your clinical interactions because I believe that you act according to how you view life and specifically, how you view nursing practice. Your actions are based on your view of the world and your worldview is your philosophy! So what better way to uncover how you view the nursing world than by examining your own clinical behaviors?!
Steps to Articulating Your Personal Philosophy of Nursing
Realize that your personal philosophy about nursing and nursing practice may change over the years – and that’s to be expected as you are influenced by didactic and clinical knowledge and as you grow as a person and a nurse. Denehy (2001) suggested that you keep copies of your first drafts so that you can see how you’ve changed and grown, both personally and professionally.
Philosophy is defined as a “search for truth [or] meaning”(Thompson, 2016). To find out what is important to you at this time, follow these suggestions. The steps are an amalgamation of ideas from Denehy (2001), Hernandez (2009), Masters (2015), and Thompson (2014, 2016).
Step 1: The first step is to take some time for yourself to reflect upon your professional nursing practice. Allot a set amount of time and schedule it on your calendar so you won’t be disturbed.
Step 2: Think about your professional nursing practice and write down actual patient care experiences/interactions with patients, family members, and other healthcare personnel; include experiences with nursing peers or management. It will be more helpful to you to write down more than one experience to reflect upon.
Because of the availability heuristic, you are more likely to write down experiences that stood out for you – that’s okay, but try to think of ordinary incidents, too. Just write down as much detail as you can remember, including what you did, asked or said, how you felt about your work, patients, the situation, etc.
Step 3: Critically examine each clinical narrative. Focus on just one sentence at a time (Hernadez, 2009). Picking apart the narrative in that way enables you to really understand what is going on in terms of the philosophical beliefs, values, and assumptions about the nursing metaparadigm concepts that are represented in each sentence.
A. Identify which nursing metaparadigm concept is represented in each sentence. The four phenomena of central interest that define nursing (i.e., that are key foci of patient care) are identified as nursing, person, health, and environment.
B. Identify whether the sentence reflects an assumption, belief, or value.
C. I think I’d go through all the sentences and identify the metaparadigms first, then I’d go back and see whether the sentence reflects a belief, assumption, and/or value (BAVs) for that specific metaparadigm. Reread the BAV definitions in your textbook (or my free Theory guide) to help you differentiate assumptions from beliefs from values and the metaparadigms from each other.
TIP: I would use symbols to mark up my narrative or highlight in different colors. For example, I’d use B, A, V to identify my beliefs, assumptions, and values and N, P, H, E for the metaparadigms. Or I’d underline or highlight the metaparadigms in a different color and then identify the BAVs. Use what works for you. The point is to be able to look at your work and get an overall view (or gestalt) of your BAVs about the nursing metaparadigm concepts.
So for example, Let’s say one of your sentences includes the fact that you assessed the patient (I assessed Mr. Smith; Upon assessment …. ; or you gave assessment details: Her skin was cool and clammy; his vital signs were … ). I would mark that sentence as the Nursing metaparadigm because it was something I DID for the patient. Then I’d try to figure out whether the sentence reflects a B, A, or V. My underlying assumption for the assessment sentence related to the nursing metaparadigm might be that Nurses’ observations of patients are valid and reliable. A belief related to the nursing metaparadigm is that Nurses are skilled in physical assessment and a value could be that Nurses should care about patients. When you are writing the BAVs, it might help if you start with the metaparadigm concept you are writing about – Nurses, Persons, Health, the Environment ….
Step 4: Once you’ve identified your BAVs from your narratives, look at the data as a whole. You might want to group the BAVs for each nursing metaparadigm concept together. Then you can identify your core BAVs about Nurses/Nursing, Persons, Health, and the Environment. This big picture should give you insight into your personal philosophy – what you really believe and value about nursing practice. Your Why, What, and How will be directly evident or implied by your BAVs.
Wait, What If I Have No Clinical Experience Yet?
Even if you are a new nursing student without any or with only limited clinical experience, you can still identify your core values (values about “the nature of humankind and society,” personal values, professional values; Denehy, 2001, p. 1) that are important to you, that help to direct your life. These general BAVs will form the underlying framework of your personal philosophy of nursing.
You can identify your assumptions about nurses, persons, health, and environment first. What do you take for granted? What do you assume to be true (without any hard evidence)?
Now, think about what you believe about Nurses and Nursing Practice, in general. What skills or attributes do you think a great nurse should have? How should they relate to Persons? What should a nurse’s role and functions be in relation to the metaparadigm concepts? What values should nurses hold?
Then think about what you believe and value about Persons, Health, and Environment. Write these thoughts down.
Now go on to Step 5.
Step 5: Construct your personal philosophy statement by reflecting on your core BAVs. Summarize or combine the main ideas, if needed and then bring them all together into a coherent statement.
Your philosophy statement should contain information about each of the four nursing metaparadigm concepts. Be as concise as possible — one or two paragraphs at the most. (Obviously, if you are to write a detailed paper on your personal philosophy of nursing, it will need to be more than a couple of paragraphs. Follow your instructor’s directions.)
This exercise will help you clarify your thoughts about the essence of nursing and nursing practice. Capturing what you find most important is a powerful motivator to drive your nursing practice to a higher level.
“A personal philosophy of nursing is important. Knowing what You believe and value about nursing practice will help you select nursing and non-nursing theories that resonate with your beliefs and values, to guide your professional practice.”
How to Cite this Blogpost in APA*:
Thompson, C. J. (2017, October 24). How to figure out your personal philosophy of nursing [Blogpost]. Retrieved from https://nursingeducationexpert.com/personal-philosophy-nursing
*Citation should have hanging indent
Denehy, J. (2001). Articulating your philosophy of nursing. The Journal of School Nursing, 17(1), 1-2.
Hernandez, C. A. (2009). Student articulation of a nursing philosophical statement: An assignment to enhance critical thinking skills and promote learning. Journal of Nursing Education, 48(6), 343-349.
Masters, K. (2015). Nursing theories: A framework for professional practice (2nd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Thompson, C. J. (2014, June 22). Theoretical frameworks for nursing research, practice, and education [Blogpost]. Retrieved from https://nursingeducationexpert.com/theoretical-frameworks/
Thompson, C. J. (2016). Nursing theory and philosophy: Terms & concepts guide! [eGuide]. Retrieved from Free Nursing Theory Guide.