Jean Watson’s Transpersonal Caring Theory

Jean Watson developed the nursing theory of transpersonal caring which sought to integrate humanistic elements into the scientific and knowledge-based nursing practice. She is a personal favorite as she represents the ideal modern nurse, that has achieved high levels of education, accumulated significant experience, and used both her family and personal values to develop a theory that greatly contributes to nursing practice. The model of caring emphasizes a holistic approach to caring and promotes positive outcomes in patients (Riegel et al., 2018).

It is challenging to integrate theory into nursing practice, despite modern nursing education does emphasize nursing theories and evidence-based practice based on them. As noted by Tonges and Ray (2011), there is a “persistent gap” between theory ad practice, with implications of the theory “not readily apparent” or a “reality in most organizations” (p. 374). However, theory should not be dismissed outright as it holds critical value. After all, according to Saleh (2018), the theory is part of the three-part cycle between practice, research, and theory that underlines the nursing profession. The process of inquiry begins with research and results in a product of knowledge (theory), the result of this relationship is science. There is a reciprocal relationship as theory is both an outcome of research as well as integral for it to provide frameworks. The key to implementation is translating theory into practical tools, via documentation, assessment, or models.

One relevant nursing concept is patient education which remains a critical but often overlooked aspect of nursing care. Unfortunately, due to workflow and limited time, nurses often have to engage in informal patient education as it is convenient and cost-effective. Informal patient education is a reality that is practiced in healthcare settings and contributes strongly to better outcomes and patient experiences. Despite the informal approach, strategies such as using a structured standardized approach and methods like the ‘teach back’ technique can be beneficial in improving the effectiveness of education (Dunn & Milheim, 2017). Cultural competency is another nursing competency that is increasingly important, both from a healthcare delivery perspective as well as the current sociopolitical climate. It has become evident that the healthcare system consistently fails racial and ethnic minorities, many times because of a lack of resources to address cultural or language barriers. Cultural competence in healthcare is critical in a multiethnic society such as the U.S. and remains the future for care provision – requiring greater training and evidence-based research on the topic (Harkess & Kaddoura, 2015).


Dunn, P. J., & Milheim, K. L. (2016). Enhancing informal patient education in nursing practice: A review of literature. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 7(2).

Harkess, L., & Kaddoura, M. (2015). Culture and cultural competence in nursing education and practice: The state of the art. Nursing Forum, 51(3), 211–222.

Riegel, F., Crossetti, M. da G. O., & Siqueira, D. S. (2018). Contributions of Jean Watson’s theory to holistic critical thinking of nurses. Revista Brasileira de Enfermagem, 71(4), 2072–2076.

Saleh, U. S. (2018). Theory guided practice in nursing. Journal of Nursing Research and Practice, 2(1), 18.

Tonges, M., & Ray, J. (2011). Translating caring theory into practice: The Carolina Care Model. The Journal of Nursing Administration, 41(9), 374-381.

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NursingBird. "Jean Watson's Transpersonal Caring Theory." August 16, 2022.