Critique of Jean Watson’s Theory of Human Caring

The Theory of Human Caring was written by Jean Watson. This model consists of ten carative factors to assist nurses with caring for their patients. Dr. Watson calls this a transpersonal relationship. Watson defines transpersonal care ‘as the capacity of one human being to receive another human being’s expression of feelings and to experience those feelings for oneself’ (Walker, 1996, p. 992). It is much more than a scripted therapeutic response, it is a moral duty that rises from within the nurse, and Watson identifies nursing as both an art and a science.

The first premise of this theory is that the more individual the feelings are, that the nurse transmits, the more strongly does the caring process affect the recipient (Walker, 1996). The two persons in a caring transaction are both in the process of being and becoming.

The moment of coming together in an actual caring occasion presents the opportunity for each person to learn from the other, how to be human.

Watson implies more than a mere mergence of experiences; she suggests a spiritual union of souls (Watson, 2008; Walker, 1996, p. 92). This writing will evaluate Watson’s theory and critique using Chinn and Kramer’s model of evaluation using description, clarity, simplicity, generalizability, accessibility, and importance (Meleis, 2012, p. 184). Clarity Watson precisely defines the concepts and sub concepts central to this theory. Watson explains abstract phenomena by using ordinary language in extraordinary ways, and uses nontechnical, sophisticated, fluid, and evolutionary language to artfully describe concepts.

Watson’s propensity toward metaphorical expression adds urgency to her moral message for nursing (Alligood & Tomey, 2010).

At times, lengthy phrases and sentences must be read more than once to convey meaning. The increasing inclusion of metaphors, personal reflections, artwork, and poetry make her complex concepts more tangible and more aesthetically appealing (Walker, 1996). According to Watson, ‘A model of caring science that goes beyond an intellectualization of the topic invites us into a timeless yet timely space to revisit this perennial phenomenon of the human condition (Watson, 2008, p. 8).

Critics of Watson’s work have concentrated on the use of undefined or changing/shifting definitions and terms and her focus on the psychosocial rather than the pathophysiological aspects of nursing (Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 101). Watson tends to explain abstract phenomena by using ordinary language in extraordinary ways. Watson’s propensity toward metaphorical expression adds urgency to her moral message for nursing (Walker, 1996). Simplicity Watson draws on a number of disciplines to formulate her theory.

To understand the theory as it is presented, the reader does best by being familiar with the broad subject matter. The theory is more about being than about doing, and it must be internalized thoroughly by the nurse if it is to be actualized in practice. Health as harmonious unity of mind-body-soul recapitulates emphasis on human idealism inspires nurses to readopt or realign themselves with a commitment to care (Walker, 1996). Basic concepts and premises appeal to nurses trying to ‘carve out’ a caring practice in the context of contemporary health care. Generalizability

Watson’s theory seeks to provide a moral and philosophical basis for nursing. The scope of the framework encompasses all aspects of the health illness phenomenon. In addition the theory addresses aspects of preventing illness and experiencing a peaceful death, thereby increasing its generality (Alligood & Tomey, 2010). The carative factors that Watson described provide important guidelines for nurse patient interaction; however, some critics have stated that their generality is limited by the emphasis placed on psychosocial rather than physiological aspects of care (Alligood & Tomey, 2010).

Transpersonal relationships can put the patient at ease, trust increases, and this is an exceptional environment for healing to take place. Watson explains that concepts, defined as building blocks of theory, bring new meaning to the paradigm of nursing and were derived from clinically inducted, empirical experiences, combined with philosophical, intellectual and experiential background; thus her early work emerged from her own values, beliefs, and perceptions about personhood, life, health, and healing (Alligood & Tomey, 2010).

Accessibility Another characteristic of the theory is that it does not furnish explicit directions about what to do to achieve authentic caring healing relationship. Nurses who want concrete guidelines may not feel secure when trying to rely on the theory alone. Some suggest it would take too long to incorporate the caritas into practice, and others state that the emphasis on Watson’s personal growth gives her latest book an idiosyncratic quality that while appealing to some may not appeal to others (Alligood & Tomey, 2010).

This theory does not lend itself easily to research conducted through traditional scientific methods (Walker, 1996). Some critics have stated that generality is limited by the emphasis placed on psychosocial rather than physiological aspects of caring (Alligood & Tomey, 2010). Watson continues to state how the transpersonal relationship is the foundation of her theory, she calls this a special kind of human care relationship, a union with another person-high regard for the whole person and their being in the world (Alligood & Tomey, 2010).

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