1. Section Editor(s): Fitzpatrick, Joyce J. PhD
  2. Reed, Pamela G. PhD
  3. Smith, Marlaine C. PhD
  4. Smith, Mary Jane PhD
  5. Roy, Callista PhD

Article Content


In 1967, the first national landmark invitational Symposium on Theory Development in Nursing was held at Case Western Reserve University's (CWRU's) Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. Facilitated by Jeanne Berthold, the conference organizers invited key thought leaders in nursing to develop a conceptual structure of knowledge useful and necessary to attain the goals established by nurses. Presentations by leading philosophers and theorists from nursing and other disciplines addressed the structure of knowledge needed by the emerging discipline of nursing, social theory and nursing research, and the importance of linking theory to practice. Recognizing the critical role of philosophy and theory in nursing, the journal Nursing Research (Vol 17, No. 3) published articles from the symposium.


Today, philosophical and theoretical knowledge in nursing faces continuing challenges. On the 50-year anniversary of the first Theory Symposium held at CWRU, nurse leaders at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing launched a Nursing Theory Think Tank (NTTT) Invitational Conference focused on charting the course for future disciplinary developments. The NTTT was envisioned as an opportunity for deep, open dialogue on the current state of nursing theory and agreement on salient points of discussion and plans for next steps of the way forward.


Each of us as NTTT invitees wrote papers prior to the on-site Invitational Conference. We circulated our draft papers so that at the on-site meeting we could be prepared for substantive debate and dialogue on both the historical perspectives and the way forward. All participants agreed that nursing knowledge development should be integral with, inform, and be informed by other elements of the profession and discipline. A panel of 3 nationally recognized nurses with expertise in clinical practice (Modic), education (Sharpnack), and research (Hickman) joined the NTTT. Each panel member had prepared a paper on his or her perspective of nursing theory. As a result of all deliberations of the NTTT, the following position paper on the Nursing Disciplinary Perspective was prepared.


The disciplinary perspective of nursing:


* Unitary human-environment-health processes: The dynamic and transformative changes manifested and experienced through living and dying.


* Healing relationships: Human environment intentions, expressions, behaviors, actions, and experiences that enhance well-being.


The structure of nursing knowledge for science and professional practice


* Types of inquiry


* Philosophical (includes ethical and aesthetic)


* Conceptual


* Theoretical


* Empirical


* Methodological


* Practice-generated


* Content of inquiry


* Human-environment-health processes


* Healing relationships


* Caring relationships, processes, and practices


* Mutual relationships, processes, and practices


As a result of this consensus statement from the NTTT members, an invitational conference was planned for March 2019. The consensus statement has served as the organizing framework for the open conference. Also, the Disciplinary Perspective document was shared with the American Academy of Nursing (AAN) Expert Panel on Theory Guided Practice. On the basis of the recommendation of the Expert Panel, the AAN agreed to cosponsor the conference.


We look forward to the continuing debate and deliberations launched through this publication and through the continuing discussions at the National Theory Conference in March 2019. We appreciate the contributions of Dr. Ann Whall who consulted on this process.


-Joyce J. Fitzpatrick, PhD


-Pamela G. Reed, PhD


-Marlaine C. Smith, PhD


-Mary Jane Smith, PhD


-Callista Roy, PhD