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McErlain, P 2001, 'The nature of nursing wisdom : a grounded theory approach', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright P McErlain 2001


Fostering wisdom is often stated as the aim of nursing education, yet there is a great deal of uncertainty as to what is meant by wisdom. This thesis aimed to paint a collective picture of eighteen nurse's stories and insights into the nature of nursing wisdom. Grounded Theory was adopted to explore the nature of nursing wisdom.

Nursing wisdom is seen as a journey and is depicted as an interconnected collection of character traits in wise nurses. The wise nurses' journey has an emphasis on learning and sharing of what has been learnt. Wisdom in nursing comes out of wise nurses interacting with their environment including interacting with people, especially the recipients of nursing care. Wise nursing is in relation to an individual, a group of nurses or nursing as a whole.

There are some core characteristics of wise nurses. Wisdom is of the whole being. Wise nurses have a love of other human beings and this is what fundamentally drives nurses to do good. Wise nurses have an open character and utilise reflection, see the multidimensional complexity, see the varied qualities in a situation and in light of these make judgements. The wise judgements include the appropriateness of love.

Wise nurses choose three modes of being: a Seeing mode with an intent of understanding, a Doing mode with an intent of creating change and a Resting mode with an intent to recuperate. These three modes are like three notes in a chord where the wise nurse can choose to have any one of these modes dominant or all in harmony with each other.

The wise nurses model is very useful as it gives an insight into the characteristics which can assist in giving direction to nursing education. The wise nurses model also powerfully facilitates the interconnection of seemingly disparate ideas and concepts. This is due to nursing wisdom being 'a whole greater than the sum of its parts'. Therefore when looking at a single aspect of the model one needs to consider all the other parts. For example the model interconnects learning, humour, ethics, love, problem solving, seeing varied qualities and seeing the multidimensional web and gives the insight that each aspect needs to be considered in light of all the other aspects. Valuable insights from these are interconnections that wise nurses, for example, see that in all problem solving there needs to be consideration of the means and the ends and to be ethical.