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New publication examines philosophies of nursing

Aug 8, 2018
Guylaine Spencer

Liz Orr and Pamela Durepos

Photo above: Elizabeth Orr and Pamela Durepos

A new article written by two graduate students and two professors at McMaster School of Nursing examines the usefulness of different philosophies of science for nursing practice and research.

“The Value of Measurement for Development of Nursing Knowledge: Underlying Philosophy, Contributions and Critiques” is published in the current issue of The Journal of Advanced Nursing.

PhD students Pamela Durepos and Elizabeth Orr are the first two cited authors for the piece. “This article stems from work that we did in a philosophy [NUR 700] class taught by Dr. Patricia Strachan,” says Durepos.

The students examined three philosophies: positivism, which is closely related to the biomedical model and is focused on numbers or statistics; constructivism, which is more holistic and appeals to many nurses for its focus on aspects of human life that cannot be reduced to a number; and constructive realism, which seems to combine the best of both philosophies.  

Orr notes that both she and Durepos often use a constructive realism philosophy in their research and their clinical practice. Orr works in neonatal intensive care and Durepos in intensive care. As Orr explains, in acute care, “there is a large focus on the numbers and what the numbers might be telling you. But nurses also need to know their patients and their families as individuals – as holistically as possible.”

The students found the philosophy course in their PhD program very useful. “Dr. Strachan was inspiring and helped us to look at science and nursing in a new way and to really question our own belief system,” says Durepos.

Orr explains that, “so much of what we do as researchers is dependent upon on a philosophical background and understanding where you stand as a nurse and as a researcher. So the course was important for giving us that foundation to move forward with our research and future careers.”

Durepos’ thesis supervisor is Dr. Sharon Kaasalainen and Orr’s thesis supervisor is Dr. Susan Jack.

Publication details:

Durepos P, Orr E, Ploeg J, Kaasalainen S (2018). The Value of Measurement for Development of Nursing Knowledge: Underlying Philosophy, Contributions and Critiques. Journal of Advanced Nursing. doi: 10.1111/jan.13778. [Epub ahead of print].



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