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A role for virtue in unifying the knowledge and ‘caring’ discourses in nursing theory


Bliss, S and Baltzly, D and Bull, R and Dalton, L and Jones, J, A role for virtue in unifying the knowledge and caring' discourses in nursing theory, Nursing Inquiry, 24, (4) Article e12191. ISSN 1320-7881 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© 2017 John Wiley & Sons

DOI: doi:10.1111/nin.12191


A critical examination of contemporary nursing theory suggests that two distinct discourses coexist within this field. On the one hand, proponents of the ‘knowledge discourse’ argue that nurses should drop the ‘virtue script’ and focus on the scientific and technical aspects of their work. On the other hand, proponents of the ‘caring discourse’ promote a view of nursing that embodies humanistic qualities such as compassion, empathy and mutuality. In view of this, we suggest a way to reconcile both discourses despite the fact that they appear to be at odds theoretically and practically. To that end, we argue that nursing theory must give a prominent role to the Aristotelian conception of virtue, and we offer an account that includes both character and intellectual virtues. This account allows for a focus on moral competence but also accommodates the demands for discipline-specific knowledge. Our account incorporates the caring discourse by suggesting a way for individuals to cultivate the conditions within themselves that make ‘caring in nursing’ possible, while the knowledge discourse is accommodated via the acquisition of the intellectual virtues. The process for achieving both these ends is the same: an intention to consistently develop, hone and exercise certain character traits over time.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:contemporary nursing, knowledge, caring, nursing theory
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Social work
Research Field:Social work not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Bliss, S (Dr Suzy Bliss)
UTAS Author:Baltzly, D (Professor Dirk Baltzly)
UTAS Author:Bull, R (Professor Rosalind Bull)
UTAS Author:Dalton, L (Dr Lisa Dalton)
UTAS Author:Jones, J (Ms Jo Jones)
ID Code:114204
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2017-02-08
Last Modified:2018-07-17

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