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Nursing Science: Why a 200 Year-Old Theoretical Structure May Be Losing Its' Scientific Way

Our Summer of Science Campaign seeks to extend the consciousness of nursing science locally, nationally and globally.

Written by Denetra Hampton

Science is the engine behind every practice and discipline. It drives innovation, professional and business acumen and credibility. The profession of nursing is in an age of legendary discovery as the smoke clears from a global pandemic, we can see our many flaws and how they have contributed to the challenges currently affecting our practice. It is now more vital than ever for a convincing case on what nursing science is, if not gang-way for the possible derailing of a 200 year-old profession.

If every student who graduates from an accredited nursing school can't articulate what nursing science is and what it is not, we have not only failed them, but all who have gone before us. We might be losing our way.

In the over 200 years that nursing has been in existence, it has always prided itself in its' contributions to medicine and research. This is largely due to the root cause of our existence based on science. In 1859 Florence Nightingale published the legendary book, Notes on Nursing, and made it clear that nursing is not a mistake, but rather what it is and what it is not.

Recently, hundreds of students graduated from accredited nursing schools, unleashing the potential of new nurse scientists. Although their development is encouraging the notion that 100% of them not only have never heard of nursing science, but do not know what it is, never mind what it is not, gives me pause. Furthermore, I offer up the following statistic so that we may have a bigger conversation about why my insistent advocacy for nursing science intensifies; According to new data released by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the number of students in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs decreased by 1.4% in 2022 ending a 20-year period of enrollment growth in programs designed to prepare new registered nurses (RNs).

Eventually, therefore, the nursing profession will have to confront head on the complexities that can result from a continued scientific theoretical framework that no longer serves us well, such as an incompetent workforce, disparities in education, poor patient health outcomes and loss of credibility.

The student experience has changed---historically, culturally, and socially. Being selected the most trusted profession on an annual basis is not the prize that will sustain us, science is the movement. With that in mind, how we continue to raise the consciousness of our science will dictate our longterm existence as a credible profession. Let's Get After It!

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