Watson's Theory of Human Care

Afza.Malik GDA

Human Care and Watson's Theory

Watson's Theory of Human Care

Theory of Human Caring,Health and Illness,Assumptions of Theory,11 Caring Paradigm Assumptions,Seven Premises,10 Hierarchical Curative Factors,Implementation or Research 

Theory of Human Caring

     Watson's Theory of Human Caring can be called a treatise, a conceptual model, a frame work, or a middle-range theory, which seeks to provide a moral and philosophical basis for nursing

    The Theory of Human Caring (Watson, 2001) was developed between 1975 and 1979 as an “attempt to bring meaning and focus to nursing as an emerging discipline and distinct health profession with its own unique values, knowledge, and practices, with its own ethic and mission to society” (p. 344). 

    Many varied, philosophical views held by Nightingale, Henderson, Krueter , Hall, Leininger, Gadow , Peplau, Maslow, Heidegger, Erickson, Lazarus, deChardin and Sarte influenced the development of the Theory of Human Caring. 

    Perennial philosophy, wisdom traditions, quantum physics, and feminist theory also guided the philosophical and intellectual development of the theory (Fawcett, 2000b). These humanities and sciences provided a phenomenological, existential, and spiritual orientation upon which Watson developed the framework for her theory. 

    Watson (1996) states that, both retrospectively and prospectively, her work “can be read as philosophy, ethic, or even paradigm or worldview” (p. 142). 

    The concepts Watson defined in the Theory of Human Caring was “derived from clinically in ducted, empirical experiences (and combined with] philosophical, intellectual and experiential (past experiences, with her early work emerging from her own) values, beliefs, and perceptions about personhood, life, health and healing” (Watson, 1996, p. 143).

Health and Illness 

    The traditional health illness phenomena defined within nursing and medicine is replaced with the deeply human experiences of life itself. Watson's theory focuses on “the centrality of human caring and on the caring-to-caring trans personal relationship and its healing potential for both the one who is caring and the one who is being cared for” (Wat son, 1996, p. 141) .

Assumptions of Theory 

    Watson's Theory of Human Caring includes the following major assumptions as stated in her first book Nursing: The Philosophy and Science of Caring (1979):

1. Caring can only be effectively demonstrated and practiced inter personally.

2. Caring consists of curative factors that result in the satisfaction of certain human needs.

3. Effective caring promotes health and individual or family growth.

4. Caring responses accept a person not only as he/she is now but as what he/she may become.

5. A caring environment offers the development of potential by allowing the person to choose the best action for himself/herself at a given time.

6. Caring is more “health genic” than is curing. The practice of caring integrates biophysical knowledge with the knowledge of human behavior to generate or promote health and to provide ministrations to those who are ill. A science of caring is therefore complimentary to the science of curing.

7. The practice of caring is central to nursing. 

11 Caring Paradigm Assumptions

    As Watson (1979/1985a, 1985b) continued in the development of the philosophy and science of her model, she proposed 11 caring paradigm assumptions which further defined nursing's social and ethical responsibilities based upon human values and altruism which are paraphrased below:

1. Care and love are primal, universal forces.

2. Nourishment of care and love, cornerstones of humanity, fulfills humanity.

3. Sustaining the caring ideology of nursing will affect civilization's development and nursing's contribution to society.

4. You must care for yourself before you can care for others.

5. Nursing has always valued caring in regard to people's health.

6. Caring is the essence of nursing.

7. In the health care delivery system, caring has been increasingly deemphasized.

8. Modern technological advances have sublimated nursing's caring


9. Preservation and advancement of human care are significant concerns for nursing now and in the future.

10. Only through interpersonal relationships can human care be effectively demonstrated.

11. Nursing's social, moral, and scientific contributions to mankind and society lie in its commitments to human care ideals in theory, practice, and research (Watson, 1996, pp. 149-151).

Seven Premises

    The following seven premises based upon the interpersonal transpersonal spiritual aspects of Watson's (1985) work provide the foundation for further development of her theory:

1. A person's mind and emotions are windows to the soul.

2. A person's mind and soul are not confined to the physical universe but transcend time and space.

3. Inseparable spheres of the human being, the mind, body, or soul can be accessed by the nurse.

4. The soul or a person exists in and for itself.

5. People need the love and care of each other in order to nourish humanity, advance civilization, and love together.

6. Finding meanings in the context of the human predicament provides solutions.

7. The totality of human experience at any given moment constitutes a phenomenal field.

10 Hierarchical Curative Factors

    Key components of the theory of human caring include human care and transpersonal relationships. Reverence and sacredness of life are fundamental. 

    Art and science are converted into a redefined concept of humanistic care in which both the nurse and the individual receiving the care are affected, resulting in a more humanistic, holistic self transcendence (Watson, 1997). 

    The 10 hierarchical curative factors are aspects of nursing that “actually potentiate therapeutic healing processes for both the one caring and the one being cared for” (Watson, 1996, pp. 154-155) and include:

1. Formation of a humanistic-altruistic system of values

2. Enabling and sustaining faith-hope

3. Cultivation of sensitivity to self and to others

4. Development of a helping-trusting caring relationship.

5 . Promotion and acceptance of the expression of positive and negative feelings and emotions

6. Engaging in creative, individualized problem-solving caring processes

7. Promotion of transpersonal interpersonal teaching learning

8. Provision for a supportive, protective, and corrective mental, physical, sociocultural, and spiritual environment

9. Assistance with gratification of human needs while preserving human dignity and wholeness

10. Allowance for existential phenomenological spiritual dimensions of caring and healing that cannot be fully explained scientifically through modern Western medicine.

    According to Watson (2002) the processes of caring and healing occur when transpersonal caring seeks to embrace the soul of the other. 

    This transpersonal caring creates a caring moment in which the nurse has the ability to center consciousness and intentionality on caring, healing, and wholeness rather than on the pathological processes. 

    This framework provides holistic and complete caring in a caring moment. The spiritual nature of human beings, striving for inner harmony, is the key to understanding the fundamental key of transpersonal caring of humans.

Implementation or Research 

    Watson's Theory of Human Caring is used in many published research studies, articles, and book chapters, and has served as a guide for master's and doctoral student research. This theory also serves as the foundation for doctoral educational programs, hospital units, and outpatient services. 

    Human science nursing “allows for the questioning of ultimate meanings and ethical values of human's health and nursing” (Watson, 1985/1999a, p. 16). Watson's theory incorporates the sacredness of the relationship between humans, impacting the caring, healing environment through the art and science of nursing. 

    This theory of transpersonal caring has made and will continue to make a significant and lasting impact on nursing science.


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