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Jean Watson discusses her Model of Caring-Healing

Monday May 9, 2005
Jean Watson is the keynote speaker for the American Holistic Nurses Association's annual conference June 17 in Philadelphia.
Jean Watson is the keynote speaker for the American Holistic Nurses Association's annual conference June 17 in Philadelphia.
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Jean Watson, RN, PhD, FAAN, AHN-BC, is a preeminent theorist and scholar in nursing. Her Model of Caring-Healing has influenced nurses around the world in their practice and thinking about the essence of nursing and healing. She is a distinguished professor of nursing and former dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Colorado and founder of the Center for Human Caring in Colorado.
Q: When did you first know that
caring-healing was your life work, your purpose, and your journey?
It is an evolutionary awareness or awakening. In my early education, I was disenchanted that there was no focus or deep acknowledgement of the human aspects of nursing practice. The focus was on the medical orientation and disease rather than attending to the person and how they interpreted and were coming to terms with their illness. The rewarding aspect for me was dealing with people, and there were no concepts or theories to frame this part of nursing. I had a desire to connect with the person behind the patient.
Q: Has your thinking evolved since some of your original work?
Oh, absolutely. My early focus on nursing philosophy and science of caring was very philosophical but very structured. I felt like I had to justify everything I said and give scientific interpretation and research background for every point. It then evolved toward more of the personalizing with the professional. Now I'm using more and more the concept of "caritas," and I'm trying to make more explicit the connection between caring and love. The work has moved into that deeper level of personal and professional, which is also unifying, connecting us with the broader infinite field of life itself and acknowledging that we have to honor the fact that this work we are doing in caring and healing is really sacred work. It's sacred because we are working with the life force and the mystery and that infinite field of possibilities that we can never fully control.
Q: What do you see as the future of the Caring-Healing model?
I see it as the future. I think all health professionals that are looking for a more meaningful purpose in their practice and career are having to go to a deeper level for transforming self and system. I think what is emerging beyond the complementary/alternative and beyond the integrative model is a much more transformed system that does take work back to the more spiritual, sacred level. I think what is emerging right now is an outgrowth of society and the public searching for something deeper in terms of their dimensions of health and self-control and self-knowledge and self-care and self-healing potentials.
Q: What do you think nurses can do to make this a more caring world - a more caring approach?
It starts with our own practice and our own consciousness and then bringing that personal into the professional. That's where the theory and the philosophy and the ethics and the practices all become one act Nurses are charged with a covenant with the public to indeed help to sustain caring. We have a role which is holism; it is a role that honors the whole person and identifies the deeper dimensions of our practice, and it is a role that honors that spiritual aspect and sacred dimension in a way that is meaningful to self and to the other.
Q: How best do we teach and prepare our students to fulfill this covenant?
We need to take this caring/healing model seriously and identify the core elements of this model - holism, consciousness and intentionality; the connectedness of all things; acknowledging the human environmental field, the caring field, and the ethic of caring as a philosophy and as a moral foundation in relation to healing; and transpersonal caring and healing interactions. All of these would require us to rethink our teaching and learning pedagogies and the nature of our curriculum. We should start with the caring experiences of the students themselves and bring out their own caring orientation to self and others and their own healing work for themselves.
Carla Mariano, RN, EdD, AHN-BC, is president-elect of the American Holistic Nurses Association and coordinator of the Holistic Nurse Program at New York University.