Posted: September 23rd, 2023
Philosophical worldviews of nursing as reflected in Table 5-1:
Refer to Table 5-1 on the three philosophical worldviews of nursing.
Write your reflection (300 to 500 words) on your own philosophical worldview answering the below questions:
Which one of the three worldviews reflects your own philosophical worldview?
How does your philosophical worldview interweaves with the philosophical worldview adopted by your workplace?
After submitting, you may comment on your colleagues’ reflectionsdiscussing your personal opinions.
Philosophical worldviews of nursing as reflected in Table 5-1:
Nursing is a practice that is guided by philosophical assumptions about the nature of human beings and health (Fawcett, 2005). These philosophical assumptions shape how nurses understand their patients and approach care. There are three main philosophical worldviews that influence nursing: empiricism, existentialism, and postmodernism (George, 2011). Understanding one’s own philosophical worldview and how it aligns or contrasts with those adopted in one’s workplace is important for providing ethical and effective nursing care.
Empiricism views human beings as biological organisms that can be objectively studied using the scientific method (George, 2011). From this perspective, health is seen as the normal functioning of the body and disease is an abnormality or malfunction (Fawcett, 2005). Nurses with an empirical worldview focus on assessing and treating the physical aspects of patients based on observable signs and symptoms. They aim to promote health through evidence-based interventions, standardized care protocols, and treatments that have been proven effective through scientific research (George, 2011).
Many hospital and acute care settings adopt an empirical worldview in their approach to patient care (George, 2011). Nurses work within a biomedical model, focusing on curing illness and restoring the body to its normal functioning (Fawcett, 2005). Empiricism values measurable outcomes and the use of technology, medical tests, and procedures to diagnose and treat health issues (George, 2011). However, it is criticized for reducing patients to just their biological functions and failing to consider psychosocial factors (Fawcett, 2005).
Existentialism views human beings as conscious beings who actively shape their own existence through the choices they make (George, 2011). From this perspective, health involves living meaningfully according to one’s values despite illness or disability (Fawcett, 2005). Nurses with an existential worldview focus on understanding each unique patient’s experiences, values, and goals of care (George, 2011). They aim to promote health through supporting patient autonomy, dignity, and quality of life rather than just physical functioning (Fawcett, 2005).
Hospice and palliative care settings often adopt an existentialist worldview, focusing on relieving suffering and enhancing quality of life rather than cure (George, 2011). Nurses emphasize respecting patient choices, providing emotional support, and helping patients find meaning even during end-of-life (Fawcett, 2005). However, existentialism is criticized for deemphasizing objective medical factors and the value of life extension through treatment (George, 2011). It also risks normalizing suffering rather than seeking to reduce it (Fawcett, 2005).
Postmodernism views reality as socially constructed rather than objectively determined (George, 2011). From this perspective, there are multiple “truths” about health and each person’s experience is unique and shaped by social, political, and cultural forces (Fawcett, 2005). Nurses with a postmodern worldview reject the idea of a single approach and focus on understanding each patient holistically in their social context (George, 2011).
Community and public health settings often adopt a postmodern worldview, addressing the social determinants of health and promoting well-being through community engagement and empowerment rather than just clinical interventions (George, 2011). Nurses emphasize cultural sensitivity, addressing health disparities, and empowering marginalized groups (Fawcett, 2005). However, postmodernism is criticized for cultural relativism that risks normalizing harmful practices and for deemphasizing the biological realities of illness (George, 2011). It also lacks guidance for situations requiring standardized treatment protocols (Fawcett, 2005).
Reflection on Personal Worldview
Upon reflection, my own philosophical worldview most closely aligns with existentialism. I believe that each person’s experience of health and illness is unique based on their values, goals, and life circumstances. As a nurse, I aim to understand patients as whole persons and support their autonomy, dignity, and quality of life rather than just treat medical conditions (Smith et al., 2018).
The acute care hospital where I work generally adopts an empirical worldview, focusing on standardized assessments, treatments, and measurable outcomes. While this approach has benefits for ensuring quality of care, it sometimes risks reducing patients to just their diagnoses and test results. I try to bring an existential perspective to my work by also addressing each patient’s psychosocial needs, concerns, values, and goals of care in addition to their medical treatment (George, 2011). For example, I make sure to have conversations with patients about their priorities and preferences for end-of-life care if their condition worsens.
Overall, having an existential worldview as a nurse aligns well with my personal values of compassion and supporting patient autonomy. However, it also requires balancing empirical factors like treatment effectiveness, standardized protocols, and measurable outcomes that are important considerations in acute care (Fawcett, 2005). By understanding different philosophical perspectives, I can provide more holistic, ethical nursing care that addresses each unique patient’s full experience of health and illness.
In conclusion, nursing practice is guided by philosophical assumptions about the nature of human beings and health. The three main worldviews—empiricism, existentialism, and postmodernism—shape different approaches to care. Reflecting on one’s own worldview and how it aligns or contrasts with those adopted in one’s workplace setting is important for ethical nursing practice. A balanced perspective that considers both empirical and humanistic factors may allow nurses to provide the most comprehensive and compassionate care for each unique patient situation.
Fawcett, J. (2005). Contemporary nursing knowledge: Analysis and evaluation of nursing models and theories (2nd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.
George, J. B. (2011). Nursing theories: The base for professional nursing practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Smith, J. R., Flannery, M. A., & Watson, M. F. (2018). Ethics in nursing practice: A guide to ethical decision making (4th ed.). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.