WD Spotlight: Jean Watson’s Theory of Caring

Written by Macy Wise, RN on February 7, 2023 No Comments

Macy Wise

Caring for our patients is not just a priority for our entire team, it’s a core component of the Westlake Dermatology DNA. Our focus on the wellbeing of our patients is exhibited by this essay recently written by Macy Wise, a Registered Nurse at WD, that explores Jean Watson’s Theory of Caring:

The art of nursing, since its origin, has been based on caring. Jean Watson believed that the core of nursing primarily focused on utilizing the nurse-patient relationship to produce therapeutic results (Watson, 1985). Her teachings are widely known for viewing the nursing profession from a holistic standpoint that involves caring for the patient’s mind, body, and soul. In 1979, Watson published her first book Nursing: The Philosophy and Science of Caring as a way to bring a fresh perspective and dignity to the world of nursing and patient care (Watson, 1997). Watson’s grand theory views nursing from a broad perspective and was based on her own personal experiences and philosophical background (Watson, 1997). The purpose of this paper is to discuss Watson’s Theory of Caring and how its concepts are used to guide our practice today. The concept of interest is “health” and how it not only relates to the progression of holistic healing but how it guides the care that nurses provide to others.

Major Theory Concepts

Watson’s theory is comprised of many abstract, variable concepts that she used to form the 10 Carative Factors. These factors provide a structure for understanding the art of nursing as the science of caring (Watson, 1985). The concepts of her theory strive to separate nursing from medicine by defining curative care and carative care and expanding on the idea that both are necessary to achieve healing. For this paper, I have decided to focus on the concepts of health, transpersonal caring moments, and time. Watson emphasizes the importance of understanding the similarities and differences between science and the humanities and how the integration of both is necessary for a comprehensive nursing practice (Watson, 1985). Watson eventually expanded her 10 Carative Factors into the 10 Carative Processes “to offer a more fluid language for understanding a deeper level of [Carative Factors] which capture the deeper dimensions of living processes of human experiences” (Watson, 2007).

Relationships of Concepts

The concepts of health, transpersonal caring moment, and time work hand in hand to define the science of caring. Watson later differentiated the carative factors as a set of values while the caritas processes cultivate the practice of showing love to oneself and others (Watson, 2008). Watson further elaborates that one must develop an intentionality and awareness that allow us to use love as the guiding force for all of our decisions (Watson, 2008). The concepts that Watson’s theory is based upon are all striving to improve this idea of “health”. However, most of our views of health are skewed. We, as nurses, often fail to consider the patient as a whole or how our health impacts the care we provide. If we have a better understanding of transpersonal caring moments and time we will reach a better understanding of health and healing. A transpersonal framework for nursing validates one’s values and spiritual beliefs, allowing them to influence the caring-healing processes and outcomes (Watson, 2002). The development of values often begins early in one’s life and continues to grow and mature into early adulthood (Watson, 1985). This is why the concept of time is relevant to her theory. Watson stated, “health is a process of adapting, coping, and growing that goes on from conception to death” (Watson, 1985). This idea of achieving health and healing does not happen at one point in time but instead is viewed on a continuum that expands through the past, present, and future.

Theoretical Definitions

Understanding the theoretical definitions of these concepts is essential to understanding Watson’s theory. Health, the concept of interest, is an illusive, subjective concept that must be separated from illness to be understood (Watson, 1985). To understand the concept of health is to recognize the wholeness of oneself and honor the unity of the mind, body, and spirit (Watson, 2010). The concept of a transpersonal caring moment is achieved when the nurse is able to connect with the spirit of the other through consciousness and intentionality, potentiating healing for both the nurse and patient (Watson, 2002). This higher frequency of energy allows the nurse and patient to connect in a way that allows them to become the proper environment for healing to take place. In Watson’s theory, time is not viewed as linear but rather all-encompassing. To achieve healing, one must understand how their present sense of self was shaped by their past and decide how they will let it affect their future. To understand the science of caring, each nurse must understand how their past experiences are being used to guide their practice and decide how they will allow it to impact their future. To understand the concept of time, one must understand that the past and future are also happening in the present.


Watson’s theory of caring can be applied any time there is a nurse-patient interaction and is a vital component of the healing process. To be successful in the field of nursing, one must separate medical care and health care. Health care is properly executed when there is a holistic approach that focuses on caring for the patient as a whole rather than only focusing on curing an illness. Applying the 10 Carative Processes to one’s nursing practice will separate nursing from medicine and help the patient achieve a higher form of health.


Watson, J. (1985). Nursing : the philosophy and science of caring. University Press of Colorado.

Watson, J. (1997). The theory of Human Caring: retrospective and prospective. Nursing Science Quarterly10(1), 49–52.

Watson, J. (2002). Intentionality and caring-healing consciousness. Holistic Nursing Practice, 16 (4), 12-19.

Watson, J. (2007). Watson’s theory of human caring and subjective living experiences: carative factors/caritas processes as a disciplinary guide to the professional nursing practice. Texto & Contexto – Enfermagem16(1), 129–135.

Watson, J. (2008). Nursing, the philosophy and science of caring, revised edition. University Press of Colorado.

Watson, J. (2010). Florence Nightingale and the enduring legacy of transpersonal human caring-healing. Journal of Holistic Nursing.28(1), 107–108.

Macy Wise, RN

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