Jean Watson: The Philosophy and Science of Caring

Theorist Background

Jean Watson is a theorist who was born in West Virginia. She pursued her bachelor degree, masters’ degree and doctorate in the University of Colorado. These were achieved in the years 1964, 1966 and 1973 respectively. She studied nursing and psychiatric-mental health. The doctorate was in the field of educational psychology and counseling. She is a distinguished professor of nursing and in charge of the Caring Science at the university. Watson has been recognized as the Dean of Nursing at the University Health Science Center. She is also the president of the National League for Nursing. She has achieved six honorary Doctorate degrees. She then developed the theory, which was finally published in 1988.

Definitions by Watson

Watson had her own definitions of certain terms. For example, she defined human or a person as a valued being that requires to be respected, cared for, requires to be understood and helped. She believed that a human being should be viewed as a completely functioning and integrated being. She also believes that a person is greater than and should be differentiated from the mere sum of the components of that person (George, 1989).

Watson also provided a definition of the term health. She defined it as a situation whereby a person has high levels of general health, mental ability and can perform social functions efficiently. A healthy person is that person who has maintained a general adaptation to the daily functions. She also defined it as the absence of illness. She continued to define it as the ability to maintain the absence of ill health.

Jean Watson also defined the term environment (society) in her own way. Her definition portrayed the idea that nurses have always been in existence in every society. She explains that the attitude of caring for others is shifted from one generation to another. This is made possible by the culture of the nurses. This is necessary in order to cope with the environment.

George (1989) stated that Watson defined the term nursing as “a human science of persons and human health-illness experiences that are mediated by professionals, personal, scientific, esthetic and ethical human transactions” (p. 93). It is the promotion of health and the prevention of illness. She also defines it as the process of caring for the sick and restoration of health in case one is already ill. Nurses focus on promoting health and treating diseases. She believes that ensuring perfect health (holistic health) to individuals is the main agenda in the caring for patients as a nurse.

The philosophy and science of caring

Watson introduce the Philosophy and science of caring. The processes that characterize the model resemble those of the scientific research model. It involves the processes of assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation. The process of assessment involves various other processes. These include observing, identifying and reviewing the problem. It also involves the formation of a hypothesis. Planning is necessary in order to know how to collect and analyze data. It also helps in identifying the type of data to collect. As the plan is put into action, this is referred to as the implementation of the plan. It also involves the collection of data. The final process is evaluation. It involves the analysis of data and the interpretation of the results. It may also lead to the coming up of other hypotheses.

Assumption in the model

Watson’s model has seven assumptions. The first is that the process of caring can only be effective when it is done interpersonally. The second assumption of the model is that care contains carative factors, which result in the fulfillment of some of the needs of man. The third one is that efficient care leads to the elevation of health and the growth of individuals and families as a whole. The fifth assumption in the model provides the definition of a caring environment. It defines it as a place where the development of potential is made possible. It also allows the patient to have a choice of the course of action to be taken on him or her. The other is that the care provided is vital in the healing process. The last assumption in the model dictates that the process of giving care is the main agenda of the nurses (Vandermark, 2006).

The ten primary carative factors

The ‘philosophical foundation’ is the name referred to the first three factors. The other seven are derivatives of that foundation (Timber, 1999). The first is the development of a humanistic-altruistic system of values. This begins at a tender age with the values imparted by the parents. The values are imparted as the nurse is exposed to the humanities. This is also made possible as the nurse goes through life’s experiences. This is considered necessary for any nurse since it leads to maturation and enables the nurse to express the same altruistic behavior towards others.

The other is the installation of faith-hope. This is important for the curative process. In situation where any intervention of modern technology cannot provide solutions, then a nurse is required to encourage the patient using faith-hope. This helps promote a sense of well-being by instilling a belief system that is helpful to the patient. Another factor is to develop sensitivity for oneself and towards other individuals. This shows the need for nurses to be emotional to other’s needs. Such emotions are only developed when one interacts at a personal level with the patient. This leads to the growth of the nurses and allows for their self-actualization. When the nurses develop a personal relationship with the patients, it allows for a greater level of health and efficient functionality.

The fourth factor is the development of trust. This includes warmth, congruence and empathy. Communicating is an important tool in this venture. This helps to establish rapport with their patients. Communication may be either nonverbal or verbal. Nurses also need to develop listening skills, which develops empathic understanding. The fifth is the ability to promote and accept the expression of both the negative and positive feelings.

The sixth factor is the careful use of the scientific innovations in order to make the process of solving problems and making decisions easier. The seventh factor is the ability to promote interpersonal learning and teaching. This is necessary since nurses need to teach and at the same time learn. The eighth factor is about the condition of the environment, as stipulated by Watson. It should be corrective, supportive and protective. This aids the patient grow physically, mentally and spiritually. The ninth involves the need to satisfy the needs of man according to the hierarchy of needs.


George, B. (1989). Nursing Theories – The base for professional nursing Practice. Norwalk: Appleton & Lange.

Timber, B. (1999). Fundamental skills and concepts in-patient care. New York, NY: LWW.

Vandermark, L. (2006). Awareness of self and expanding consciousness: Using Nursing theories to prepare nurse. Mental Health Nursing, 27(6), 605-615.

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