Nursing as a Science and an Art

Table of Contents

Nursing is a very complex field that is comprised of a multitude of components, aspects, and layers. Nursing has its own philosophies, beliefs, and culture that include a variety of rituals, perceptions, and beliefs. At the same time, nursing is based on the scientific methods of health care delivery, evidence-based techniques, and academic research. Since as a discipline, nursing is focused on the work with patients and the provision of a holistic approach, it is natural that the nursing practices are not solely based on the clinical procedures but also include many aspects of interaction with the people, approaching their communities, including their families in the treatment process (Wolf, 2013). In that way, the discipline of nursing is broad and diverse enough to be attributed the qualities of both science and art.

Nursing as Art

Discussing the vision of nursing as art, Radmehr, Ashktorab, and Abedsaeedi (2015) pointed out that some of the first perspectives and works concerning this topic were written and published in the 1970s by Barbara A. Carper who distinguished between several patterns of knowing – empirics (evidence-based and scientifically proven knowledge), esthetics (rituals and care philosophies), personal knowledge (individual experiences of nurses), and moral knowledge (nursing ethics). In this classification, the science and art of nursing are represented by the first two patterns – empirics and esthetics. Practically, the esthetics of nursing care is usually recognized as the art of nursing that includes nurses’ abilities to empathize with the patients, design the holistic approaches creatively based on their understanding of the complex personal dynamics of the patients’ lives, and establish contact with the patients and their families by means of performing intuitive tasks in addition to what is demanded by the clinical science.

Radmehr et al. (2015) pointed out that one of the major challenges of describing nursing as art is the actual definition of art as applied to this discipline. Some of the primary questions in this regard involve the understanding of art in connection to beauty and resulting in the creation of artworks. In that way, if nursing is considered art – the question is whether or not the delivered should be regarded as artwork that has its unique beauty. Since the entire concept of art is very difficult to define and the situation is similar with the definition of beauty, there are significant complications when it comes to describing the esthetic aspects of nursing.

In addition, exploring the composite nature of the discipline of nursing, Locsin (2013) mentioned a perspective that views art as a part of science but not a separate aspect; according to this theory, art represents the phenomena that cannot be expressed with the help of words. Nursing definitely incorporates multiple practices that are based on non-verbal communication and interaction between a nurse and a patient.

Moreover, Contreras Ibacache (2013) emphasized that the aesthetics of care are more tangible than it is typical to imagine. The author pointed out that nursing excellence, the practitioner’s ability to deliver wholesome and holistic care, contextualize the theoretical knowledge and personal experiences into practice are the manifestations of art in this discipline.

The interaction between a nurse and a patient is considered the core source of esthetics in the field of nursing that are represented by sets of approaches and tactics that vary from one practitioner to another and are based on the characteristics of the patients with whom they work (Duran & Çetinkaya-Uslusoy, 2015). In other words, creativity is the underlying principle of the nurses’ ability to design individual strategies of interaction with their patients, and thus the care they deliver can be regarded as art.

Nursing as Science

When it comes to understanding nursing as a science, most theorists refer to the practical nursing as a demonstration. For instance, Dahnke and Dreher (2015) mentioned that the concept of evidence-based practice is one of the major cornerstones that serve as the basis for the description of the discipline from the point of view of science. In addition, Wolf (2013), who emphasized the ritualistic aspects of nursing as a manifestation of its esthetic aspect, noted that the latter have a significant weakness due to not being represented in the evidence-based research.

In fact, the argument concerning the nature of nursing as scientific or artistic is easily broken by the absence of evidence supporting the esthetics as there are almost no standardized care procedures dedicated to this function. It looks like the two aspects of nursing are focused on very different issues, and the scientific practice seems more obvious due to the support provided by evidential cases, standardized procedures, and the overall practical knowledge of chemistry in the human body and its response to different stressors. In that way, the science of nursing has a much stronger basis compared to that of the nursing esthetics that tends to differ from one patient or nurse to another, thus preventing the formulation of common rules or standardized approaches.

It is easy to present the nursing science as focused on the bodies of people and the art of nursing as concentrated on work with the persons (Locsin, 2013). However, such approach would exclude the overlapping characteristics of the two perspectives. In other words, nursing as science does not solely focus on the body and its functions but takes into consideration the emotional responses to treatment and psychological root causes of diseases. In that way, it is possible to make a conclusion that the characteristics of art ant and science are deeply intertwined in the discipline of nursing and cannot be divided into two separate aspects. Differently out, as it was mentioned previously, in the nursing art can be viewed as a part of science (Locsin, 2013). In addition, the science of nursing can also be considered as a part of its esthetic representation.

The Connection between Art and Science in Nursing

Art and science are the two critical components of nursing; however, the discipline is not limited to them and includes such additional elements as the individual knowledge of the nurses and ethics (Radmehr et al., 2015). The complexity of this field can be explained by the continuous interaction of all the diverse aspects that results in their mutual influences on one another. As a result, one component of nursing can hardly be defined separately from the others or isolated in some way.

However, based on the statements made by researchers, it is possible to notice that regardless of the multifaceted nature of the discipline, its scientific aspect has been favored over the others throughout the last several decades (Radmehr et al., 2015; Wolf, 2013; Dahnke & Dreher, 2015). It is easy to notice that the recent works in research have been focusing majorly on the clinical practice and the generation of evidence-based knowledge, thus neglecting the other aspects of nursing.

However, the patient-centered approach that has been gaining popularity over the last several years served as a significant booster helping to promote the other components and bring the researchers’ attention towards them. It is regretful that the art of nursing has been overlooked as a set of practices difficult to standardize or generalize, and therefore was left researched. This tendency resulted in the advancement of the scientific components of nursing leaving behind its esthetics. However, for the nursing practitioners, the latter aspect has never moved to the background or stopped being as significant as the others. The development of the art of nursing seems to continue beyond the scientific research, still remaining a very important part of health care delivery and work with the patients. The art of nursing is currently discussed along the lines of such topics as the delivery of holistic care, patient experiences, patient-centered approach, the inclusion of families and communities in the provision of care, and the establishment of nurse-patient bond based on empathy and non-verbal communication.


Nursing is a discipline comprised of several aspects such as ethics, personal knowledge of nurses, empirics, and esthetics. Since the discipline focuses on working with people – the complex systems integrating many different layers of existence, the aspects of nursing care are inevitably intertwined with one another, and thus it is impossible to view them in isolation. One could focus specifically on the scientific or the artistic part of nursing; however, that would be similar to treating a patient’s body without taking into consideration their emotions and feelings or concentrating only on the latter but disregarding the physical side of the problem.


Contreras Ibacache, V. (2013). Evidence of art in nursing. Enfermeria Global, 30, 332-338.

Dahnke, M. D., & Dreher, H. M. (2015). Philosophy of science for nursing practice: Concepts and application (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Duran, E. T., & Çetinkaya-Uslusoy, E. (2015). Opinions of nursing students on the art of nursing: A qualitative study. International Journal of Caring Sciences, 8(2), 308-316.

Locsin, R. C. (2013). Art and science in the practice of nursing. Songklanagarind Journal of Nursing, 32(1), 39-44.

Radmehr, M., Ashktorab, T., & Abedsaeedi, Z. (2015). Nursing care aesthetic in Iran: A phenomenological study. Nursing and Midwifery Studies, 4(2), e27639.

Wolf, Z. (2013). Exploring rituals in nursing: Joining art and science. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

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