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The theory of nursing has gained much attention for the last five decades leading to a tremendous growth and massive expansion of education and literature in the field of nursing. Although the success of nursing care in the traditional days was based on vocational training and education that emphasized more on competition of skills in the functional areas of each medical practitioner rather than using evidence-based approaches to care (Alligood, 2013). Essentially, many of the nursing practices in the olden days were not tested to evaluate their effectiveness. However, the dawn of the twenty-first century has been marked by phenomenal efforts to use evidence-based practices to ensure that there is quality improvement in the care offered to the patient. Ideally, the textbook authored by Martha Raile Alligood (2013) presents a historical development in the nursing sector that has led to a new whole level of nursing knowledge. That said, the purpose of this paper is to identify some of the trends in the history of nursing that has improved knowledge of nursing and to discuss whether nursing is a science or an art.

Historical trends

One of the tremendous inputs in the history of nursing was the establishment of nursing school at St. Thomas Hospital in London by Florence Nightingale. Ideally, this was the initial mark of the progression of nursing knowledge in the whole world. During Nightingale’s time, women were usually discriminated in employment and education sector (Alligood, 2013). While she observed that promoting women’s nursing education was important through her experience in taking care of the victims of the Crimean War, she envisioned that establishing a nursing school to increase nursing knowledge and awareness would have a tremendous development in medical sector. As such, through the efforts of Nightingale, nursing schools have been erected throughout the United States basing their nursing practice on evidence.

Development of conceptual and theoretical frameworks also led to the expansion of nursing knowledge in the mid-1970s. According to Alligood (2013), the need to have nursing knowledge based on theory and concept matched with the need to standardize the nursing curricula for master’s and doctoral education as suggested by Chinn and Kramer (2013). The ongoing debates argued that students pursuing a doctorate course in nursing should be a nurse by profession because of amassing nursing knowledge that was capable of changing the nursing sector. Another historical development in the field of nursing took place in the 1980s when the nursing theory was further developed from pre-paradigm to paradigm, which were embedded in larger context of metaparadigm. Essentially, this paradigm shift in the theory of nursing led to improvements in nursing knowledge by clarifying the concepts of nursing, health, environment, and person.

Is nursing an art or a science?

Nursing has two sides. It is both an art and a science. The more apparent side of nursing is the science perspective in the sense that a nurse must be conversant with the nursing care plan before offering any medication to the patient. As a science, nurses must be familiar with the nursing procedures, practices, policies, management of diseases, and the right medication, which are all evidence-based (Alligood, 2013). The art of nursing involves nursing practitioners exhibiting their nursing skills into practice. It requires skillfulness in bridging information between a nurse and a patient. It entails utilizing all knowledge gathered from science to provide the best care to the patient.


The main purpose of this paper was to identify some of the trends in the history of nursing that has improved knowledge of nursing and to discuss whether nursing is a science or an art. Indeed, the paper has reflected on three historical developments, one from Nightingale, development of conceptual and theoretical frameworks, and a shift from pre-paradigm to paradigm. Essentially, the three historical developments had a phenomenal development of nursing knowledge. Besides, the paper has argued that nursing is both an art and a science.


Alligood, M. R. (2013). Introduction to nursing theory: its history, significance, and analysis. Nursing theorists and their work-e-Book, 1.

Chinn, P. L., & Kramer, M. K. (2013). Integrated theory & knowledge development in nursing-E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Knowledge-Development-Nursing-Theory-Process/dp/0323530613

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