Disney vs. Jean Watson’s Caring/Healing Theory Reconciliation

In my search for clarity and easy fixes in turbulent times as a nurse leader in a growing healthcare system …

I fell for Fred Lee’s message in his book, If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9½ Things You Would Do Differently,  published in  2004.

And I remember listening to Fred Lee present at a leadership retreat put on by my organization around 2006…    and I was inspired.


What is baffling is that this was at a time when I had been studying Jean Watson’s Theory of Caring and Healing for 8 years.

Why?  Why did I trust Fred Lee’s message over Jean Watson’s?

4 Reasons:

  • All leaders— from the C suite, other administrators, directors— from nursing and non-nursing departments alike were having an awakening about caring and a new found recognition about the importance of nurses’ caring
  • Fred Lee’s message could be packaged.  Disney did it, so healthcare could too! I thought.
  • Suddenly there was a common language across all departments about Care, Compassion, Courtesy. It wasn’t just nursing talking about these things.
  • I could feel a new energy —  there was a wind beneath nurses’ caring … and nursing didn’t have to carry the water alone.


Ok, that was then and I can face this …. 20 years later.

I have been one of those nurse leaders caught in the miscarriage of formulaic caring programs in the race for higher satisfaction scores. I am one of many well-intentioned nurse leaders not having the caring impact they had hoped to achieve in their leadership roles.

And this is what we know now….

It’s a new day, a new time and a new mental/soul space for nurses….   Yes,  we are catching up to Jean Watson’s caring consciousness. 


Over these years, nurses and nurse leaders have been caught between the battle cry for formulaic caring and the silent resistance among nurses to this organizational focus.

This lack of clarity about caring practices and expectations around formulaic caring in healthcare today is contributing to the energy that fuels our workplace conflicts regarding work demands and working conditions.

The hard science of EBP and the escalation of technology have tipped the scales for nurses.  There’s just not enough bandwidth for higher levels of caring. 

And now the public’s shift from all things science and technology to wellness consciousness is in nursing’s domain… Tipping the Scales Our Way. 

It’s time for nursing to bring  forth the language and consciousness of caring and populate all of healthcare with our caring language and caring consciousness.

“The change will come when nursing and nurses are directly aligned with the people they serve.” (Watson, 1999, p 46)

It’s our time, and Watson knew it would come.images-5

Much more on Caring Language

and Caring Consciousness to come…  


Lee F. If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9½ Things You Would Do Differently. Bozeman, MT: Second River Healthcare Press; 2004.
Watson J. Postmodern Nursing and Beyond. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 1999.

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