1. Baumberger-Henry, Mary DNSc, RN


Theorists over the years have debated the art versus the science of nursing, keeping each form distinct and separate from the other. The author presents a way for students to learn the art of nursing through a scientific rational approach of student-designed continuing case study and cooperative learning.


The art of nursing care so diligently practiced by Florence Nightingale and recognized and perfected by many nursing theorists has become curtailed in the 21st century, tailored to fit the increased acuity level and short-term stay of the hospitalized patient. The age-old, time-learned art of giving baths and back rubs or feeding and walking patients has been replaced by new demands in an ever-changing healthcare system. 1 Increased patient acuity, and the ambiguity of various patient care situations, requires complex decision-making as nurses attempt to sort extraneous from relevant cues in practicing the art of nursing.


It is possible that teaching through the art of nursing may provide a more harmonious way of thinking. When informed, understanding the meaning of and balancing one's decisions becomes easier. However, unlike the experienced nurse, the new graduate or student nurse is not always capable of performing complicated decision-making. Nurse educators have spoken to the need of helping students develop reflective learning skills and critical-thinking abilities so essential for making accurate decisions. In accordance with the recommendations of the Pew Health Professions Commission, 2 nurse educators over the years have promoted the need for changing the classroom environment to one of learning rather than an emphasis on teaching. 3-4 This has prompted the use of active-learning teaching methods such as case study 5-7 and cooperative learning. 8,9


In the effort to preserve our profession and educate our students to meet the challenges of a tumultuous healthcare milieu, we must not forget the art of nursing. Nor should the science of logic and objective thinking be an opposing belief system. As we move beyond the many domestic tasks once termed the nursing arts, to complex tasks and multiple decision-making, we can teach our students the sciences through the art of nursing.