Articles from three landmark symposia on theory for nursing—published in Nursing Research in 1968–1969—served as a key underpinning for the development of nursing as an academic discipline. The current special issue on Theory and Theorizing in Nursing Science celebrates the 50th anniversary of publication of these seminal works in nursing theory.
The purpose of this commentary is to consider the future of nursing theory development in light of articles published in the anniversary issue.
The Editorial Team for the special issue identified core questions about continued nursing theory development, as related to the nursing metaparadigm, practice theory, big data, and doctoral education. Using a dialogue format, the editors discussed these core questions.
The classic nursing metaparadigm (health, person, environment, nursing) was viewed as a continuing unifying element for the discipline but is in need of revision in today’s scientific and practice climates. Practice theory and precision healthcare jointly arise from an emphasis on individualization. Big data and the methods of e-science are challenging the assumptions on which nursing theory development was originally based. Doctoral education for nursing scholarship requires changes to ensure that tomorrow’s scholars are prepared to steward the discipline by advancing (not reifying) past approaches to nursing theory.
Ongoing reexamination of theory is needed to clarify the domain of nursing, guide nursing science and practice, and direct and communicate the unique and essential contributions of nursing science to the broader health research effort and of nursing to healthcare.