Art & Science in Nursing: Comparing 20 Years Difference

As we enter the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, and healthcare systems around the world review the models of care, including the workforce. As educators it provides an opportunity to reflect on what are the requirements for current and the future of nursing. We have seen many differing views on what is nursing? and what does a nurse do?, including the heroism over professionalism in COVID-19 debate. For this journal club we compare some of the similarities and differences in two publications on the art and science of nursing spanning a 20-year publication timeframe.

There is concern that nurses are displacing caring and turning their work into a science akin to medicine.

Newspaper article in 1997

Journal Club Articles

  1. Bradshaw, A. (1998). Charting some challenges in the art and science of nursingThe Lancet351(9100), 438-440.

Provides a history of the 20th century of nursing vocational servitude around care and compassion and the attritibutes of the nurse in textobooks. Such attributes of the nurse should be those of dedication, kindness, compassion, patience, trustworthiness, self-control, discretion, humility, perseverance, courtesy, the obedience of loyalty, and respect. However reinforcing that education and use of scientific evidence was underpinned in nurse training fuelled by Florence Nightingale’s work. The ethos was to provide total patient care. The handmaiden and vocational view of nurse training was further challenged when nurse training was delivered in higher education settings and development of nursing theory and nursing evidence based practice.

“The Art and science of nursing both been displaced and deconstructed, but is this breakdown beneficial for the care of patients?”

Bradshaw, 1998

2. Vega, H., & Hayes, K. (2019). Blending the art and science of nursingNursing202049(9), 62-63.

The focus for the art of nursing occurs in the holistic care of patients, with delivery of the 3 C’s of nursing in Care, Compassion, and Communication in a now customer service-based healthcare industry. Next the science part, and the requirement for nurses to engage, access science evidence based practice and scientific inquiry to improve patient outcomes. However, this is all has to be deilvered in lean thinking times and do more with less time to do it.


Similar themes around the art and science of nursing continue, in particular the challenges to provide optimum care. An aspect not discussed in great detail from these articles is that nursing seems to be discussed at the individual level and what attributes and skills are required, but what about the expectation of nursing at the national or international level to influence and shape healthcare and provide optimum work environments in all nurse work settings needs to be discussed further.

Additional Reading: Nursing Education Network. (2019). The Science & Art in Nursing.