Nursing’s Ways of Knowing and Theories of Knowledge
Since the dawn of modern nursing in Florence Nightingale’s day, nurses have sought to understand the art and science of nursing. A good place to start in our quest to understand nursing is to begin with a concept called ways of knowing (Alligood, 2014). These phenomena are not unique to nursing
Ways of knowing contribute to our mastery of nursing practice; while theories of knowledge (Epistomology, Ontology and Axiology), hold philosophical tenants about what knowledge is and how our beliefs about it direct our scientific inquiries (research). Nurse theorist, Carper (1978) identified four fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing. She described these patterns (or ways of knowing) as (a) empirics, (b) aesthetics, (c) ethics, and (d) personal knowing. A pattern of knowing is a notion similar to a way of knowing, but it’s personal, inside a being or patterns among groups of beings (such as nurses).
What is Unknowing? It’s a way of being open to what you may not know. This is used by nurses all of the time when they ask patients and families questions and listen with an open mind so as to find out what’s going on for them. An example of being ‘unknowing’ would be to ask a patient what’s most important to them right now; and then of course to listen with the intent of helping them get what they need.
Theories of Knowledge
• Epistemology is the study of empirical knowledge, typically resulting from scientific inquiry. Epistemology encompasses empirical knowledge and also teleological knowledge, the process of knowledge (interpolation and extrapolation), and additional contributions to knowledge.
• Axiology is the philosophical study of value. Studies within the philosophy of axiology examine ethical dilemmas and questions.
In nursing practice, nurses search for knowledge within the various philosophies of knowledge. For example, empirical information is important to know facts, numbers, trends and processes. Nurses also seek knowledge of ontology when reading qualitative studies and inquiring about a client’s experience and personal meaning. Nurses also inquire within the philosophy of axiology to address ethical dilemmas. Carper, however, described another pattern called personal knowing. As nurses, we know that epistemology benefits from additional contributions to knowledge, such as logical reasoning (inductive and deductive), reasoning by analogy, the influence of chance, and imagination in science, intuition, and discussion as a stimulus. These additional sources of knowledge contribute to personal knowledge.
See if you can correctly place the Theories of Knowledge in the exercise below.
Theories of Knowledge
Ways of KnowingTheories of Knowledge
Drag and drop the terms related to different Theories of Knowledge.
The PICOT statement serves to formulate a clear practice question. According to Melnyk and Fineout-Overholt (2011), the practice question should include (a) the population to which you will address the intervention; (b) the intervention that addresses the etiology; (c) the comparison (what is happening now; (d) the expected outcome having tried the intervention; and (e) the time frame in which you will conduct this project.
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