Knowing in nursing: a concept analysis

J Adv Nurs. 2009 Jun;65(6):1328-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04951.x. Epub 2009 Mar 9.


Aim: This paper is a report of an analysis of the evolution of the concept of knowing in nursing.

Background: Following the seminal contribution of Carper in 1978, knowing has been discussed with increasing frequency in the nursing literature with reference to the development of nursing knowledge. Various patterns of knowing, as well as research focused on reflection on experience, have been the foundation for activities and research designed to improve practice as well as patient care in clinical, community, education, cultural and administrative settings.

Methods: Rodgers' evolutionary method of concept analysis provided the framework for this analysis. The data source was a search of literature published from 1978 to 2007. Three aims guided the analysis: to understand how the concept of knowing is used in nursing, how it is used in other health-related disciplines and how the concept has evolved into the current interpretation.

Discussion: Analysis revealed that knowing in nursing refers to a uniquely personal type of knowledge constructed of objective knowledge interfaced with the individual's subjective perspective on personal experience. Knowing is a dynamic process and a result of personal reflection and transformation as the individual lives and interacts in the world. Its antecedents are experience, awareness and reflection. The consequences are understanding, finding meaning and transformation.

Conclusion: This analysis illuminates an area in which nursing has carved out its own niche in healthcare research. The concept of knowing in nursing practice and research reflects a focus on the individual experience of health and illness.

MeSH terms

  • Awareness*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing*
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Nursing Theory*