Watson’s and Nightingale’s Nursing Theories Comparison


Nursing is one of the fundamental aspects of human civilization. Since ancient times, people have been trying to help others in need, reduce their suffering, and improve their well-being. For this reason, this field of knowledge evolved along with the development of society and science. The rise of nursing was also promoted by multiple outstanding nurse theorists who used their own experience to initiate positive change and emphasize the critical importance of specific aspects that might guarantee better outcomes. For instance, Jean Watson and Florence Nightingale are the founders of theories relevant today and can be used in nursing practice. For me, both frameworks are critical and influence my own vision of nursing and how care should be delivered to help patients in their recovery.

Jean Watson Theory

Jean Watson’s theory embraces the philosophy of care and science. The theory encourages practicing compassionate care to address the patient’s needs using scientific knowledge and clinical skills derived through science to promote healing (Cherry & Jacob, 2019). It is based on the assumption that everyone requires human caring in his/her time of need, and the energy exchange between the patient receiving care and the nurse delivering care is beneficial to both parties. In summary, her theory involves a holistic approach that embraces ten ‘creative factors that incorporate altruistic, sensitive, and trusting interpersonal exchange between the patient and the nurse (Cherry & Jacob, 2019).

Application of her ‘caring/carative theory’ guides nurses in their approach to patient care. It facilitates the true human connection with the patient when assessing their needs within the context of both their internal and external environments. Care, empathy, and compassion are applied throughout the five-step nursing process, which results in positive outcomes. Her theory acts as a guide in using the nursing process as a caring tool that promotes the excellent nursing practice and produces positive healing outcomes.

Florence Nightingale Theory

Florence Nightingale, born in the nineteenth, is considered the founder of modern nursing and the first nursing theorist. Her theory of nursing practice was developed from her work, caring for wounded soldiers in filthy and unsanitary facilities during the Crimean War. She felt that such an environment did not promote healing. Her theory of environmental adaptation emphasizes the benefits of caring for the patient in a clean and health-promoting environment in which the patient can thrive, heal, and recover from illnesses. Her theory focuses on five main factors of a patient’s environment that the nurse must facilitate in caring for the patient. They are cleanliness, light or sunlight, fresh air and ventilation, proper diet, noise control, and the elimination of unnecessary chattering (Cherry & Jacob, 2019). Her contribution to nursing care highlights the important role the nurse plays in influencing the patient’s physical environment while delivering care. Miss Nightingale defined nursing as an art that required disciplined study and scientific training. Her philosophy and body of work contributed to the recognition of nursing as a respected and formal profession.


Comparing these two theories, it is possible to focus on several factors. Both theorists used their experiences generated when working with patients. Watson and Nightingale used their observations to create new frameworks vital for improving outcomes and helping individuals to benefit from enhanced results. However, the theories are different as they focus on opposite aspects of care. Thus, Watson’s theory places emphasis on the interpersonal process between a nurse and a patient (Cherry & Jacob, 2019). She states that humans cannot be viewed as objects and empathy and compassion are critical when delivering care. Nightingale’s approach focuses on other factors which are also essential for the care delivery process. Her theory emphasizes the necessity of establishing an appropriate environment characterized by factors promoting better outcomes (Cherry & Jacob, 2019). In such a way, it is possible to conclude that the theories focus on different elements. While Watson outlines the importance of interpersonal relations and empathy, Nightingale promotes the necessity to create conditions that might help patients to recover.

Theories’ Influence on My View of Nursing Practice

However, being different, these two paradigms remain relevant and impact my view of the profession. Jean Watson’s theory of human caring has been a foundational influence in my nursing practice. The interpersonal care promoted by her theory aligns with my nursing commitment to connecting with my patients on a soul level as I use my nursing knowledge and skills to assist in their healing. I believe that any person should be viewed as a unique individual with his/her needs, desires, and preferences. That is why it is critical to establish trustful and positive relations with clients to ensure they can share and ask for specific care or assistance.

However, I also use Nightingale’s assumption in my practice. I am sure that the environment is one of the most important factors influencing the care delivery process and results. For this reason, working with patients, I monitor my surroundings to minimize the risk of infections or other negative factors. In such a way, I should say that both these theories remain relevant today and strongly influence my view of nursing and attitude toward working with people. I always try to be empathic to make a person feel comfortable and create the environment needed for recovery.


Altogether, nursing is one of the fundamental fields of knowledge vital for the survival of society and its development. The development of this science was promoted by numerous theorists who created the framework for the most effective care delivery and working with patients. Watson and Nightingale introduced their own theories using observations collected during their work with patients. The first one emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relations and empathy, while the second one focuses on the environment and factors that can help a person recover. However, being different, these two paradigms are critical for modern practice. My own vision of nursing is formed under the influence of these theories. I always try to connect with patients and view them as unique individuals with specific needs. At the same time, I give much attention to the environment as it is another fundamental aspect of care.


Cherry, B., & Jacob, S. (2019). Contemporary nursing: Issues, trends, and management (8th ed.). Mosby Elsevier.

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