There Are Two Levels of Nursing


Out of all of Jean Watson’s writings and programs about caring— her Theory of Human Caring/ Caring Science, over 30 books and hundreds of articles, and the WCSI programs offered locally, nationally, globally and online ….

Nursing comes down to two types of service to humanity,

Overt Service and Subtle Service

This may be obvious to many, but I have to see the concrete before I can freely go to the abstract.

Nursing’s overt caring practice-

All nurses, nursing schools and the healthcare system are wrapped up in nursing’s overt caring practices, for good reason. This is where the hard sciences drive medical and nursing clinical care standards, pharmacology, patient safety, etc., and then there’s the technologies to master.

Nurses have to learn these, these are life and death and cure.

Nursing’s subtle caring practice-

This is the inner world of the nurse that connects with the inner world of the patient at the heart level.

These are those connections that originate within the nurse, spark from a connection between the nurse and the patient, are nurtured by the nurse’s internal resources, and can only be sustained by the nurse.

Nursing schools introduce this connection of authentic caring, but as we know its development, acknowledgement and support virtually suspend upon entering employment in healthcare organizations.

Watson’s Caring Science and her Caritas Model of Nursing bring us back to our subtle caring practice, our origins, which is to serve humanity through caring and healing.

This is important to us as nurses because it is our subtle caring practice skills that will heal us as nurses and heal others through our subtle caring connections.  

Caring Science and the Caritas Model are aligned with society’s evolving mind/body/spirit and wellness consciousness.  This is our signal to awaken to this consciousness and our own, and to ” become the magnetic field of attraction for others, offering a new field of compassion and calming, soothing, loving presence in the midst of life threats and despair.” (Watson, p197).

It starts with nurses simply becoming aware of the connections they have now with their patients, and building on that strength.

Watson describes nursing as “embracing the finest of the medicalized, technical outer world while consciously cultivating the subtle inner practices of evolving our own humanity.” (Watson, p197)

As society evolves its mind/body/spirit and wellness consciousness, so goes nursing and nurses.

“We do it through a disciplined approach to our personal practice, which in turn becomes a more mature professional model accessing the energetic connections of human-universe as part of our evolution.” (Watson, p197)

From here, Watson teaches us how to tap into subtle caring practices while providing our routine overt care.


Featured image – courtesy of
Watson J. Nursing – The Philosophy and Science of Caring, Revised Ed. Boulder: University Press of Colorado; 2008.

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