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  In the world of education in nursing, the word theory is used as a way to describe the content that is covered within the classroom setting. The practice of an advanced nurse relies heavily on the use of critical thinking and having the ability to understand required theoretical backgrounds. Theories vary greatly such as grand theories and descriptive theories (Yip, 2021). A descriptive theory thoroughly explains a specific phenomenon, and they are inductive and based off of observation. It is used to describe and characterize individuals or groups.  Descriptive theories describe the phenomena, contemplate on why they occur, and trace their consequences (Yip, 2021).

   A grand theory is referred to the claim of explaining large segments of the human experience. In nursing, an example of a grand theory is Parse’s Human-becoming Paradigm. It is a theory commonly used within the nursing practice, and it is considered to be used in the practice daily. Parse’s theory focuses on life and human dignity. Parse’s theory is meant to guide nurses to focus on the quality of life from each person’s own perspective as the goal of nursing (Ortiz, 2021). 

   Conceptual models address concepts that are built due to their relevance to common problem. They are structured more loosely compared to theories and they do not link concepts in a logical deductive system. Within the nursing field, conceptual models help to provide a framework for measuring the result of features on patient and provider outcomes. (Vieira et al., 2021). The Levine’s Conservation Model, Neuman’s System Model, and Dorothea Orem’s Self Care Model are conceptual models used within the critical care field. The goal of conceptual models is to provide holistic care to patients who experience life-threatening situations and it helps to improve their quality of life. Overall, conceptual models provide a framework for a phenomenon, direct thinking, observations, and interpretations (Vieira et al., 2021).

   Theories and conceptual models help to distinguish nursing as a separate entity from medicine and their related sciences, and assits nurses in understanding their needs as well as their patient’s. Nurses may use these foundations to better understand their purpose and role within the healthcare setting. 


Ortiz MR. Community Change Concepts and Health Policy Implications. Nurs Sci Q. 2021 Jan;34(1):88-92. doi: 10.1177/0894318420965205. PMID: 33349180.

Vieira, J. V., Deodato, S., & Mendes, F. (2021). Conceptual Models of Nursing in Critical Care. Critical care research and practice2021, 5583319. (Links to an external site.)

Yip J. (2021). Theory-Based Advanced Nursing Practice: A Practice Update on the Application of Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Nursing Theory. SAGE open nursing7, 23779608211011993.

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