Philosophy of Nursing: Caring, Holism, and the Nursing Role(s)

Authored by: Mark Risjord

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Medicine

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138846791
eBook ISBN: 9781315720739
Adobe ISBN: 9781317519850


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One of the central philosophical questions about nursing is: Who is a nurse? In other words, is the nursing role defined by distinctive responsibilities, abilities, or domains of knowledge? And if so, what are they? This is a question of identity for practicing nurses. New nurses will often wonder whether a problem falls within their domain of expertise or responsibility. Should I respond directly, they ask themselves, or do I need to refer this problem to the physician (or social worker, or nutritionist, or housekeeping, or…)? Questions of identity are not only about how one regards oneself. Identity is also a matter of how a person is regarded by others. What a nurse is asked to do by a patient or by other members of a health care team depends in part on what they think “nurses” ought to do. The question of identity is also important to the nursing profession. Nursing is regulated and licensed. Decisions must be made about the content and assessment of nursing curricula, as well as the legal boundaries of professional responsibility. Such decisions depend, at least in part, on judgments about the proper responsibilities, abilities, and expertise of nurses: they depend on who nurses are.

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