Usefulness of nursing theory-guided practice: an integrative review

Scand J Caring Sci. 2019 Sep;33(3):540-555. doi: 10.1111/scs.12670. Epub 2019 Mar 13.


Background: Nursing theory-guided practice helps improve the quality of nursing care because it allows nurses to articulate what they do for patients and why they do it. However, the usefulness of nursing theory-guided practice has been questioned and more emphasis has been placed on evidence-based nursing and traditional practice. Therefore, an examination of experimental studies was undertaken to analyse the extent of use and usefulness of nursing theories in guiding practice. We reviewed experimental studies because in this era of evidence-based practice, these designs are given more weightage over other research designs. This examination would corroborate the usefulness of nursing theory-guided practice compared to traditional practice.

Methods: An integrative review was conducted. Literature search was performed within multiple databases, and 35 studies were reviewed and appraised.

Results: Majority of the studies were from Iran, the United States and Turkey and used Orem's self-care model, Roy's adaptation model and Peplau's theory of interpersonal relations. The effect of theory-guided interventions was evaluated in improving quality of life, self-efficacy, self-care and stress of patients with chronic, acute, cardiac and psychological illnesses. The quality rating was judged to be strong for three studies, moderate for 25 studies and weak for seven studies. All of the strongly rated studies found nursing theory-guided interventions useful. Overall, nursing theory-guided interventions improved all of studied outcomes in 26 studies and at least one outcome in nine studies. None of the studies reported that nursing theory-guided interventions as not useful.

Conclusion: Nursing theories have guided practice in both eastern and Western countries, and theory-guided practice has been found useful compared to traditional nursing practice. Therefore, nurses should continue to guide their nursing practice through the lens of nursing theories and should continue to evaluate the effectiveness of nursing theory-guided practice.

Keywords: experimental studies; nursing theories; nursing theory-guided practice.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Evidence-Based Nursing / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Nursing
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Care / psychology*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Nursing Theory*