Aesthetic Knowledge Development

‘Aesthetics’ is the study of art and beauty with a goal of ascertaining the validity of aesthetic judgments, emotions, and artistic merit (properties) of art forms (Brilowski, 2005). People experience art differently due to distinctive individual tastes and perceptions. Chinn and Kramer (2014) define art as the “process of creating an aesthetic object or experience” in an artistically valid way (p. 139). It is any human process of creating an integrated and coherent unit from its elements. Because perceptions of art are unique to each person, beauty is not an issue of individual taste, but a form that allows one to perceive the expressed art (Brilowski, 2005). Thus, in philosophy, beauty can symbolize grief or death. Nevertheless, the art form can represent beauty if it meets aesthetic criteria of validity. Aesthetically valid art form is one with general distinctive characteristics.

The Art of Nursing

There exist different conceptual definitions of the art of nursing in literature. Historically, nursing art describes the technical skills acquired in nursing arts training (Chinn & Kramer, 2014). In recent years, nursing is considered an aesthetic practice with different conceptual dimensions. The first dimension relates to making meaning out of a patient encounter (Chinn & Kramer, 2014). The intuitive sense allows nurses to understand the demands of the moment and respond spontaneously to provide appropriate care to the patient or family. The intuitive utilization of the nurse’s “creative resources to form experience” is art (Chinn & Kramer, 2014, p. 143). The second dimension relates to making meaningful connections with the patient. The art of nursing requires a deep connection with the patient during an encounter.

The third dimension is proficiency in care delivery. A skillful performance requires a deep understanding of the tasks, procedures, and ethics relevant to a particular nursing activity. The fourth dimension is rational reasoning in clinical decision-making. Rational processes and nursing skills underlie aesthetic capability of nurses (Chinn & Kramer, 2014). The fifth conceptual dimension is ethical conduct in nursing care delivery. The art of nursing consists of a transformative element that involves ethical issues.

Envisioning and Rehearsing Using Narrative

The envisioning and rehearsing processes give rise to aesthetic creativity. Envisioning entails anticipating a response or outcome of a process while rehearsing involves the deliberate creation and re-creation of a scenario. Narratives evoke personal reflection on the meaning and aesthetic knowledge inherent in the words of the storyline. The narrative communicates the “mood, feel, and attitude” of the story in the envisioned time and space (Brilowski, 2005, p. 643). In addition, the verbalizations and non-verbal cues in storylines integrate into a single plot of the imagined nursing scenario. Although the initial story is essentially fictional work, it serves as an important rehearsal tool for the actual event in the future. Rehearsal of the narrative is achieved through writing or conversation.

Envisioning and Rehearsing Using Movement

Movement is an important part of the art of nursing. Movement entails the body gestures and postures that communicate meaning in different situations. Body movements (body language) of a nurse send strong messages to patients and family during encounters. According to Chinn and Kramer (2014), body movements are culture-specific and convey a nurse’s intentions, self-image, technical skills, and emotional and social competence. Artful nurses envision using movement to set “rhythm, style, pace, and attitude” to foster patient engagement (Chinn & Kramer, 2014, p. 147). Rehearsing physical contact, touch, and facial expressions are also important in the art of nursing. Thus, movement determines the time-space context within which nursing care is delivered.

Narrative and Story for Artistic Quality

Narratives and stories generate deep meaning that parallels messages conveyed by aesthetic objects. In both narratives and stories, the participants play a role in plot development with the plot unfolding as the story progresses towards a particular conclusion. Thus, plot development is an artistic process that requires skills in the storyline creation and re-creation (Bauman, 2008). Developing a storyline with a particular envisioned ending relies on the nursing experiences during interactions with the patient and family. The artistic quality of narratives and stories is achieved in two ways. First, storylines convey deep meaning and experiences that characterize the art of nursing to the audience or readers. Second, storylines serve as a tool for exploring new situations and scenarios.

The Role of Connoisseur-critics

A connoisseur-critic is a skilled critic who plays an instrumental role in the development of art. He or she understands the history and evolution of an art form as well as new industry trends (Chinn & Kramer, 2014). As an expert with a discriminating eye, a connoisseur-critic helps develop the talent and skills of artists to improve their artistic expression. A connoisseur-critic offers guidance that helps artists refine their aesthetic skills. He or she is sensitive to the artist’s abilities and initiates measures geared towards reaching greater competence.

Essential Elements of Artistic Criticism

A skilled connoisseur does not give generalized judgments regarding an art form. He or she does not judge an art form as being good or bad but provides indicators that inform his or her response. Therefore, artistic criticism contains indicators of the reaction. Another element of artistic criticism is substantive insight. A critic provides enough information concerning the aspects of the art form that elicited his or her response.


Bauman, S.L. (2008). Improving Our Stories. Nursing Science Quarterly, 21(3), 260-267.

Brilowski, G. (2005). An Evolutionary Concept Analysis of Caring. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 50(6), 641-650.

Chinn, P., & Kramer, M. (2014). Knowledge Development in Nursing: Theory and Process. New York: Mosby.

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