Nursing textbooks’ conceptualization of nurses’ responsibilities related to the ideal of a holistic view of the patient: A critical analysis

Lise Cecilie Kleppe, Kristin Heggen, Eivind Engebretsen


Objective: In nursing education, nurses are trained to perceive their patients as whole persons with mind, body, and spirit. This relates to the professional ideal of holism. This article focuses on how basic nursing textbooks conceptualize the ideal, when instructing students to understand their patients in particular ways.

Methods: We analyzed several basic nursing textbooks with regard to their characterization of a nurse’s clinical and caring gaze. Further we looked for how they train nurses to take responsibility for the whole person. We scrutinized the included texts using narratological text analysis tools that particularly emphasize how texts present a specific perspective regarding described events.

Results: Our analysis showed that nurses are expected to assume only a limited and technical responsibility for the sick body, while simultaneously assuming almost unlimited responsibility for the patient as a human being. We identified a lack of integration between the focus on the patient’s medical condition and the nurse’s responsibility to view the patient as a human being.

Conclusions: The identified lack of integration between taking responsibility for the patient as a human being and simultaneously focusing on the patient’s medical condition highlights the failure of the analyzed textbooks to conceptualize how a nurse can provide holistic care.


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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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