Nursing (NURS) 608

Philosophical Foundations of Nursing


Delivery Mode: Paced/home-study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Applied Studies

Prerequisite: None

Centre: Centre for Nursing and Health Studies


Nursing 608: Philosophical Foundations of Nursing explores concepts that form the philosophical foundations of nursing. Examples of these concepts include: nursing as a discipline and profession, nursing's metaparadigm, nursing's unique body of knowledge, paradigms and ways of knowing, nursing theories and borrowed theories, evidence-based practice, and theory-based practice.

The units of the course are organized around 2 processes: exploring and personalizing. “Exploring” will provide opportunities to read what some of nursing's great thinkers have written about nursing and discuss how their thoughts are relevant to nursing today. In the “Personalizing” section, students are asked to share their thoughts about the significance of these ideas to their nursing practice, and to the discipline of nursing.

Course Goals

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  1. Discuss the relevance of explorations of nursing knowledge for the discipline of nursing and one's own nursing practice.
  2. Explore various paradigms that underlie nursing knowledge.
  3. Analyze ontological, epistemological, and methodological implications of various paradigms of nursing knowledge.
  4. Explore alternatives to paradigmatic approaches to nursing knowledge, including pragmatic and ecologic approaches.
  5. Relate ways of thinking about nursing knowledge to grand, mid-range, and situation specific nursing theories.
  6. Explore the significance for nursing practice of various ways of thinking about nursing knowledge.
  7. Explore various approaches to the development of nursing knowledge.
  8. Analyze nursing phenomena from a variety of paradigmatic/theoretical perspectives.
  9. Synthesize ways of thinking about nursing knowledge to formulate a personal philosophy of nursing.

Course Materials

NURS 608 comprises online and print-based course materials.

Online Materials

  • Introduction: Provides essential information about the course materials, the design of the course, and the procedures you should follow to complete the course successfully.
  • Schedule: Outlines the timing of course activities.
  • Units: There are 5 units in this course.
  • Assessment: Outlines the assignments/evaluation procedures of the course.
  • Reference: Listing of required readings, websites, and citations included in the units.

Print Materials

The textbooks listed below are used in this course.

Cody, W.K. (Ed.). (2013). Philosophical and theoretical perspectives for advanced nursing practice (5th ed.). Burlinton, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Reed, P., & Shearer, N. (2012). Perspectives of nursing theory (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Course Structure

NURS 608 is an asynchronous online course. This means there is no predetermined time when you must log on. However, the course is structured as five units that you complete by specified dates. There are assigned readings for each unit and questions that stimulate your thinking and further investigation of the topic. Your learning is facilitated through regular postings in the discussion forum. Logging on several times a week is desirable so that discussion continues back and forth among participants.

Technical Requirements

Computer System

In order to successfully complete this course, you must own or have ready access to certain computer hardware and software programs. For complete and up-to-date information on the minimum computer requirements required to complete the graduate nursing courses, visit the Centre for Nursing and Health Studies technical site.

Course Outline

NURS 608 consists of the following 5 units:

Unit 1: Nursing and Nursing Knowledge
In this unit, students will define what is meant by the title of the course by exploring the two concepts that are included in the title, philosophical foundations and nursing. Students will explore the relationships among philosophy, knowledge, and nursing.

Unit 2: Paradigms and Perspectives of Nursing Knowledge
In this unit, students will explore various paradigms that are shaping nursing knowledge, consider the consequences of adopting a paradigmatic position to knowledge, and suggest alternatives to paradigmatic thought.

Unit 3: Nursing Knowledge and Theories
This unit provides an opportunity to relate nursing knowledge to nursing theory, explore selected grand, mid-range, and situation specific theories, reflect on their usefulness in nursing practice, and discuss controversies that surround the development and use of nursing theories.

Unit 4: Nursing Knowledge Comes to Life in Practice
In this unit, students will consider the relationship between nursing knowledge and nursing practice, with emphasis on the relationship of nursing theories to aspects of nursing practice. Students will also explore the relevance of nursing theory for their own personal development as nurses.

Unit 5: Future of Nursing Knowledge
The final unit presents various scenarios for the future development of nursing knowledge and challenges students to identify their own responsibilities for developing nursing knowledge.

Assessment Structure

In the MHS and MN:Gen programs, students must achieve an overall program GPA of 2.7 ( B- or 70 percent), to graduate. The minimum passing grade requirement for each MHS and MN:Gen course is C- (60 percent)

The following course activities will contribute to your course grade, with the percentage weighting of each activity as follows:

Conference Participation 20%
Assignment 1 15%
Assignment 2 30%
Assignment 3 35%
Total 100%

Conference Participation (20%)

Feedback regarding conference participation will be ongoing. Quality of input (not quantity) is the goal. Feedback will focus on the student's ability to provide organized and original contributions that reflect analysis and synthesis of the material presented.

Participation Criteria

Participation will be measured against the following criteria:

  1. Complete online contributions during the unit forum timeframe.
  2. Contribute to online discussions at least twice each week.
  3. Contribute original thoughts or ideas to online discussions.
  4. Cite relevant resources to validate points made.
  5. Demonstrate openness to divergent points of view.
  6. Be respectful of the perceptions of others.
  7. Integrate material from previous units to formulate ideas and generate dialogue.
  8. Present responses that follow the rules of grammar and spelling in the online contributions.

Assignment 1: Meaning of Nursing (15%)

Students choose one of the following three options:

A. Review either the website of your provincial/territorial nursing association or online/paper-based resources from the nursing department in your place of work. Discuss how those materials portray nursing as an art, science, discipline, profession and/or other.

B. Explain what the five metaparadigm concepts mean for you, illustrating the discussion with specific examples from your nursing practice.

C. Explain what the five ways of knowing mean for you, illustrating the discussion with specific examples from your nursing practice.

Assignment 2: Paradigms and Theories in Nursing (30%)

In Assignment 2, students are asked to consider the significance for nursing of the perspectives of paradigms and theories presented in Units 2 and 3. Students discuss the following:

  1. Explain the contributions of each of empirical, interpretive, and critical paradigms to nursing knowledge for practice. Illustrate with concrete examples from your nursing practice (using either one scenario or different examples).
  2. Discuss the implications for nursing knowledge development for practice of a pragmatic perspective of paradigms and theories. Include both the advantages and disadvantages of such a perspective. Illustrate with concise examples from your nursing practice (if possible, refer to the examples used in first section of paper).

Assignment 3: Personal Philosophy of Nursing (35%)

In Assignment 3, students are asked to synthesize what they have learned throughout the course about nursing and nursing knowledge, and to formulate a personal philosophy of nursing that answers the following questions:.

  1. What does nursing mean to me?
  2. How do I use nursing knowledge in my practice?
  3. As a nurse scholar, how can I contribute to the development of nursing knowledge?

Students should illustrate the discussion of their personal philosophy of nursing with examples from nursing practice.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Updated October 04 2017 by Student & Academic Services