Florence Nightingale's Theory Term Paper

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Nursing Practice through Environmental Control April 22, 2013 Name RT Final Paper NUR 505-01

Florence Nightingale's Environmental Theory is a patient care theory designed to control environmental factors that allow nature to act in the healing processes to promote better health outcomes. The Environmental Theory argues that nature alone cures, but when aspects of the environment are out of balance, the patient must use energy (Florence Nightingale: Environmental Theory, 2013). Stresses drain energy needed for healing that makes it difficult for nature to act. Nurses can meet a patient's needs through control of environmental factors.

The basis of the theory is an inter-relationship between a healthful environment and nursing practice. The purpose of the theory is to teach nurses to use environmental factors in ways that allow nature to act to enable the healing processes to work in a natural way and to create sanitary conditions for patients to receive care. It allows the nurse to use environmental factors to provide solutions to problems and help patients have better health outcomes.


The Environmental Theory was first published in 1860 by Florence Nightingale. During the Crimean War, soldiers had a high death rate from illnesses other than their injuries. Nightingale believed the deaths were due to poor nutrition, inadequate supplies, and the overworking of soldiers. After gathering evidence, Nightingale discovered the major cause of the death rate was unsanitary conditions. She developed the concepts of the Environmental Theory to improve the sanitary conditions for the soldiers to get well.

The concepts of the theory incorporated environmental factors into the nursing care plan. Nurses meet patient needs through the control of the physical environment for the individual, family, and the community the patient lives and includes social and psychological aspects. The social environment includes collecting data about disease and illness prevention, environmental components of clean air, fresh water, and proper drainage, and includes home, hospital, and community. The psychological environment requires activities, such as manual work, appealing food, a pleasing environment, and keeping the mind active. It also includes communication with the patient, about the patient, and about the people associated with the patient. Communications should be therapeutic, soothing, and unhurried.

The theory is based on assumptions of natural laws, mankind can achieve perfection, nursing is a calling, nursing is an art and a science, nursing is achieved through environmental alteration, nursing requires a specific educational base, and nursing is distinct and separate from medicine (Nightgale's Environmental Theory, 2011). Environmental factors that affect health are fresh air, pure water, sufficient food supplies, efficient drainage, the cleanliness of patient and environment, and light, particularly direct sunlight. The major concepts are ventilation and warming, light and noise, cleanliness of the area, health of houses, bed and bedding, variety, offering hope and advice, food, and observation. These concepts and factors must be adapted to fit the needs of the individual patient.

Nightingale defined disease as "a reparative process that nature instituted from a want of attention" (Florence Nightingale: Metaparadigm in Nursing, 2013). She believed the prevention of disease through environmental control greatly uplifts the maintenance of health and health promotion. Environmental improvement addresses the physical and mental aspects of patients.

The nursing goal is to place the patient in the best possible condition for nature to act. It includes activities that promote health that occur in any caregiving condition (Theory of Florence Nightingale, 2012). The person is multidimensional, composed of biological, social, and spiritual components. Health is to be well and be able to use well every power we have. Disease is considered dys-ease or the absence of comfort. Poor or difficult environments lead to poor health outcomes. Environments can be altered to improve conditions so that the natural laws would allow healing to occur.


The characteristic of compassion drives nursing to change the health of patients and to ensure they are restored to full health as much as humanly possible. The Environmental Theory is also a driving factor in nursing because it is about the actions that nurses take to alter the environment that changes the conditions of a patient's health. Whether it is maintaining a sanitary environment, keeping the area and the patient clean, or pulling the shades back to brighten the room with sunlight, or communicating to ensure the patient their condition will get…[continue]

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