Available scholarship demonstrates that the family is an important component in nursing practice, as health and illness are mainly construed in terms of family events due to their capacity to affect the functioning of individual members and the family as a whole (Friedman, Bowden, & Jones, 2003). Indeed, it is acknowledged that knowledge about each family’s structure, function, and processes is of immense significance in guiding nursing professionals on how to offer effective care in families and avail individualized care that is customized to the unique characteristics exhibited by each family (Kaakinen, Gedaly-Duff, Coehlo, & Hanson, 2010).
The present paper discusses how the family works as a system in enhancing the health and wellbeing of its members, the concept of the family most used in the general medical practice environment, and the nursing theory that is mostly used in this setting.
Family as a System
One of the nursing approaches to care considers the family as an interaction system in which the whole is more than the sum of its components, implying that interactions between individual members of the family become the principal target for a multiplicity of nursing interventions that flow from the evaluation of the family as a whole (Kaakinen et al., 2010). As acknowledged by these authors, this approach focuses on the individual and family concurrently to enhance the health and wellbeing of members by, for example, assessing “the direct interactions between the parental dyad or the indirect interactions between the parental dyad and the child.” (p. 12).
Since the systems approach operates on the assumption that one malfunctioning component of the system affects all the other components (Friedman et al., 2003), nursing professionals can use this thinking to assess how the illness of one member affects the functioning of the whole family. Consequently, they are better placed to provide nursing care that will not only address the illness but also ensure that the family continues to function well and members continue to get along with each other for optimal health and wellbeing.
In the general medical practice environment, the coping concept of the family is mostly used not only to assist patients presenting at the infectious disease unit and their families with the capacity to cope with the medical challenges but also to avail a strong support structure that could be used by family members to effectively maintain the full functioning of the family (Kaakinen et al., 2010). It is believed that the coping concept is most helpful because the practice environment is normally frequented by the elderly, who need to be shown how to cope with their illnesses with the view to optimizing their health.
Additionally, this concept is most helpful in the practice environment as it assists the elderly to cope with the illnesses as they become more often the receivers of care in the family rather than the givers (Hautsalo, Rantanen, & Astedt-Kurki, 2013).
The theory used in Practice Setting
The theory that is most conducive to the general medical practice environment is Dorothea Orem’s Theory of Self-Care, which “postulates that people have a natural ability for self-care, and nursing should focus on identifying these deficit areas” (O’Shaughnessy, 2014, p. 496). According to this author, “the term self-care means care that is performed by oneself for oneself when one has reached a state of maturity that is enabling for consistent, controlled, effective, and purposeful action” (P. 496). The theory further posits that nursing professionals are better placed to respond to the deficit areas of patients by facilitating self-care and always ensuring that the relationship between the patients’ demands for self-care does not surpass or exceed their present capability.
With the mounting life expectancy in many countries and rising health concerns associated with an aging population (Hautsalo et al., 2013), Orem’s Theory of Self-Care is better placed than other nursing theories to provide this group of the population with the capacity to manage their illnesses if they demonstrate learner readiness and aspiration for self-care. Additionally, the theory is conducive in the practice environment as it provides nursing professionals with the capacity to influence elderly patients to maintain independence and a sense of self-worth, which in turn not only positively impact the health outcomes of these patients but also ensure optimal functioning of their families (O’Shaughnessy, 2014).
This paper has discussed how the family works as a system in facilitating the continuum of care to its members, why the coping concept of the family is mostly used in its practice setting, and why Orem’s Theory is most conducive in the practice environment. Overall, the paper has underlined the significance of the family in facilitating the health and wellbeing of the entire society.
Friedman, M.R., Bowden, V.R., & Jones, E.G. (2003). Family nursing: Research, theory, and practice (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Hautsalo, K., Rantanen, A., & Astedt-Kurki, P. (2013). Family functioning, health and social support assessed by aged home care clients and their family members. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22(19/20), 2953-2963.
Kaakinen, J.R., Gedaly-Duff, V., Coehlo, D.P., & Hanson, S.M.H. (2010). Family health care nursing: Theory, practice and research (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company.
O’Shaughnessy, M. (2014). Application of Dorothea Orem’s theory of self-care to the elderly patient on peritoneal dialysis. Nephrology Nursing Journal, 41(5), 495-498.