As nurses, we all more or less have the same ultimate goal for our work ― supporting the health and well-being of others. However, our individual learning, values, and views about the world influence how we approach the work we do, how we do it, and why.
Developing your own nursing philosophy may seem daunting, but by answering a few key questions, you can gain deeper confidence in your chosen profession.
What Is a Philosophy of Nursing?
You may have heard about a philosophy of nursing before. It’s an individual nurse’s statement of what nursing means to them and how that meaning translates into practice as a nurse.
But it’s an explanation that moves beyond a job description. A complete nursing philosophy takes your very personal ideas about experiences, goals, and beliefs and puts them together in a way that outlines the deeper meaning behind day-to-day work. It’s a statement of reference for you to check where you currently are as a professional and where you need and want to go.
Many nurses develop their philosophy statement during their nursing education or when applying to jobs. Wherever the push for a philosophy comes from, the thought that goes into working through it leads to the same benefit.
Going through the process of determining your own philosophy of nursing gets you to think critically, bringing visibility to truths that are already within you. It gives purpose and meaning to everything you’ve learned, practiced, and will do in the future.
And when work is challenging, having a well-developed, internalized philosophy inspires persistence. It reminds you why you’re meant to do what you’re doing instead of anything else.
How to Develop Your Own Nursing Philosophy
Understanding your own nursing philosophy is empowering. You get a more solid idea of how to focus your energy on day-to-day responsibilities and gauge difficult decisions with your values and beliefs.
As you gain experience, your philosophy will evolve, based on the situations you encounter and the learning opportunities you take. You can begin understanding your current philosophy by asking yourself the following questions.
1. What Does Nursing Mean to Me?
You know the standard definition of nursing from your studies, but a nursing philosophy is supported by a personal definition of nursing, which may be more emotional or theoretical than you’ve ever expressed.
Start by figuring out how you define “wellness” and “patient care.” Where do they begin? Where do they end? Do they end? Determine what roles nurses play in promoting and fostering your definitions, and decide why taking on these roles is important to you.
You may find that your overall concept of nursing includes ideas about abstract things, like your personality, relationships, lifestyle, and ethics, and that’s okay. Being able to explain nursing this way — as more than a job — sets the tone for the rest of your philosophy, and it’ll help you bring together all the elements that explain your unique position as a nurse.
2. Why Did I Want to Become a Nurse?
What moved you into this field and not another? Nursing is not an easy job, so committing to a nursing career should be a motivated decision.
Many times, a critical life experience can motivate a career. Other times, motivation comes from a combination of experiences — the people we’ve known and the environments we’ve been part of.
Think back to what brought you on the nursing path in the first place, the point in your life where you decided that nursing was a necessary part of fulfilling your life’s goals. Place your mindset at this pivot point to help you refine the rest of your philosophy.
3. What Are My Personal Beliefs About the Impact of Nursing?
You can help yourself answer this question by thinking about the effects of all the roles nurses fill. Depending on how they work, nurses can take on responsibilities from any variety of vocations. Nurses can be advocates, educators, change agents, and more.
The work of a nurse doesn’t end with a patient. Patients have other people they are directly connected to, like family members, friends, and coworkers. They have indirect connections, too. Being a positive influence for a single patient has the potential to impact many people over a patient’s lifetime.
Focus on your passions and strengths, and visualize the ripples of their effects. This is an inspiring part of the profession, and you should know why that inspires you.
4. What Skills and Values are Most Important to Me in my Nursing Work?
Nursing is both a calling and a career. Prioritize your goals for developing as a professional and think about your goals and tendencies as a whole person. All people have natural affinities based on the things they give value to, and they have a moral compass that directs their daily choices.
Because nursing involves making ethical decisions, be honest with yourself about your needs and boundaries. Clear understanding here will not only help you when you are working through decisions on the job. It will also help guide you toward the right job.
Knowing what you want to do and what you stand for can help you search for job positions best suited for your personal and professional growth. It’ll also help you navigate your career as you’re presented with new opportunities.
5. How Will My Work as a Nurse Impact My Community and Society?
Nurses have the potential to contribute to large-scale positive change. When thinking about your impact, consider its place against larger issues.
For example, in some communities, nurses are the primary medical workers. They do more than treatment. They’re important guides in medical knowledge and public health.
But this kind of impact isn’t limited to those communities. Any nurse has the potential to use their work to advance the efforts of a larger cause or be involved in grassroots initiatives of a local community. When you think about your concepts of patient care, personal values, and motivation, your place in a “larger picture” should unfold.
Take time to answer each of these questions. Once you’re done, make note of overlapping ideas, and write about them in a few paragraphs. This written statement is your philosophy of nursing.
Examples of Nursing Philosophies
Finding the right words to share your philosophy may not come right away. These examples can help you plan your own full statement.
- “My nursing philosophy is characterized by holistic care. To me, nursing is about the individual and understanding their needs on all levels, including emotional, physical, and scientific.”
- “As patient advocates, nurses use clinical judgment to empower a patient to become an active partner in their own health care. Nurses should also encourage mutual goal-setting to increase communication and help the patient improve their situation.”
- “As a nurse, my role is to ensure my patients are being treated to the best of my ability on a physical, mental, and emotional level. I strive to solve various issues to get to the root cause of their illness and be their advocate when they don’t already have one.”
Preparing to write a nursing philosophy may seem daunting, but interpreting your role in the profession will help you find focus and fulfillment in your career. No matter how you express it, figuring out your unique place in the nursing world will put you on a path to supporting the greater good.