Nursing: A Synthesis of Art and Science

Table of Contents

The healthcare system in the U.S. is in the process of reform, and nursing is the central part of the matter. Contemporary nurses are expected to apply their knowledge and skill to provide competent, patient-centered, and evidence-based care. At the same time, patients and their families require nurses to be compassionate and respectful of people’s dignity. While the knowledge aspect of nursing can be learned in classes, humanity and empathy can be acquired only through practice and experience. Therefore, nursing is a complicated matter and should be viewed as a synthesis of both science and art.

Key Terms

Before moving to the discussion, it is beneficial to define the central terms for the paper. The narrow definition of nursing explains the matter as a process of care for the sick or infirm. However, care, and medical care, in particular, is a complex subject that includes many aspects that correlate and interact with each other. The responsibilities of a contemporary professional nurse include conducting a comprehensive assessment of patients’ illness, designing, implementing, and evaluating therapeutic interventions, demonstrating advanced levels of clinical judgment, and educating patients about a healthy lifestyle (Dunphy, Winland-Brown, Porter, & Thomas, 2015).

Therefore, nursing can be defined as a profession protecting and promoting health, preventing illnesses, and mitigating suffering through diagnosis, treatment, education, and compassionate communication with patients and their relatives.

Since the purpose of the present paper is to explain why nursing is a synthesis of art and science, it is valuable to define both of the notions. The current work uses a conventional understanding of science as “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through the scientific method” (Science, n.d.). Art (n.d.) is “a skill acquired through experience, study, or observation.” At the same time, it is mindful use of skill and creative imagination to achieve a specific result, commonly an aesthetic object (Art, n.d.). The present paper defines art as a conscious use of creative imagination and skill, acquired through experience, study, or observation, to obtain a projected result.

Nursing as Science

Nursing is considered a science, as it administers a body of systemized knowledge gathered and tested through a scientific process. Originally, nursing is not basic science, as it is an amalgamation of concepts from various sciences and humanities with no traceable discipline-specific theory. However, contemporary nursing can be considered a fundamental science as it relies on a set of unique approaches and guidelines that emerged during the last two decades.

The methods and protocols have been worked out with the help of academic proceedings and tested through practice. For example, nurses, when treating patients, who are perceived to be victims of domestic violence, are to follow particular guidelines that are suggested by the researchers. Protocols, policies, and procedures are elaborated specifically for professionals and by the professionals in the field through the scientific method. Therefore, nursing is a science because it fully corresponds to the definition mentioned above and covers the general truths and laws of the matter.

While using the collection of exclusive theories and directions, the nursing practice also relies on a body of scientific works in associated sciences. In simpler words, clinical nurse specialists (CNPs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are expected to have scholarly knowledge in medicine, psychology, team working, decision-making, and problem resolution (Barrett, 2017). For example, when N.P.s need to educate a patient about acquiring healthy eating habits, they may consider utilizing social cognitive theory, which is a part of psychology (Dunphy et al., 2015). Hence, nursing can be viewed as a science as it uses academic knowledge from other spheres.

Nursing as Art

According to the definition provided above, a skill acquired through observation and experience is art. While a large proportion of knowledge concerning nursing can be learned with the help of theory, a considerable part of skills can be acquired only through practice. For example, one of the central skills for N.P.s and CNPs is to demonstrate compassion and treat their patients with dignity and respect by listening and acknowledging their needs (Palos, 2014).

A person cannot become humane with the help of theoretical knowledge; compassion can be learned only through real-life communication. As there is nobody of knowledge or specific guidelines concerning one of the crucial aspects of nursing, the matter cannot be viewed as entirely scientific. The subject includes the features of art because personal experience is one of the central ways of acquiring knowledge in the field.

Another distinctive aspect of nursing is creativity and imagination, which corresponds to the definition of art. N.P.s and CNPs should be flexible and adapt to every patient’s needs and challenges. For example, if a person experiences difficulty speaking, a nurse can use writing or provide a patient with a series of yes-no questions to communicate with the staff. This is how specialists can implement creativity in their practice, which is inappropriate for the scientific method. Therefore, considering the definitions provided above, nursing should be viewed as a synthesis of science and artistry.

Case Example

To acquire a full understanding of how art and science can be synthesized to meet the medical, physical, and psychological demands of a patient, it is appropriate to refer to an actual case. Palos (2014) describes how J.P., a patient who could not speak, walk, or see well, was treated for his severe pain. The hospital staff attended to the patient’s and his relatives’ needs with due respect, compassion, and dignity. N.P.s consulted the patient’s relatives about how he should be addressed on hospital grounds to feel comfortable. Nurses also asked family members for tips on how to communicate with J.P. about his pain and other needs and wrote a message in large letters that informed the staff about the needed nonverbal pain assessment (Palos, 2014).

This part of care is not guided, and there are no specific protocols about how patients with such disadvantages should be addressed. The hospital staff used imagination and creative thinking to address the matter appropriately; however, the pain treatment was governed by a strict set of rules and regulations that had been elaborated using the scientific method. Thus, the example proves that nursing is a complex matter that synthesizes science and art.


Professional nursing is becoming more multifaceted than ever as uncertainties and healthcare reformation contribute to the complexity of the subject. While trying to realize the core of nursing, one is almost sure to encounter a question of whether it is an art or a science. On the one hand, it is unquestionably a science, as it is a body of knowledge obtained and tested through the scientific method. On the other hand, N.P.s and CNPs are required to demonstrate creative thinking and imagination to become more compassionate. Thus, nurses are to synthesize art and science to offer patient-centered and evidence-based care.


. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (11th ed.). Web.

Barrett, E. A. M. (2017). Again, what is nursing science? Nursing Science Quarterly, 30(2), 129-133. Web.

Dunphy, L., Winland-Brown, J., Porter, B., & Thomas, D. (2015). Primary care: Art and science of advanced practice nursing (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis Company.

Palos, G. R. (2014). Care, compassion, and communication in professional nursing: Art, science, or both. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing 18(2), 247-249.

Science. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (11th ed.). Web.

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