What are the Levels of Nursing Theory?

What are the Levels of Nursing Theory?

Understanding the levels of nursing theory is vital for anyone involved in the nursing field, whether as a student, educator, researcher, or knocking-up nurse. Nursing theory is the phrenic foundation that supports the profession. In addition, it offers a structured framework for comprehending, explaining, and auspicating various aspects of nursing practice, education, and research.

This article explores the significance of nursing theory, its role in guiding research, and the three distinct levels of nursing theories. Delving into each level, we will evaluate examples and discuss how these theories influence different aspects of patient care, research, and education. As we unravel the layers of nursing theory, we gain insight into its aftermath on communication, evidence-based practice, and the overall advancement of the nursing profession.

What is Nursing Theory?

Nursing theory is the body of knowledge that underpins the profession of nursing. The theories are based on philosophies in which scholars articulate their views of customs, which are influenced by culture, politics, religion, and science.

Some theories are quantitative, while others are qualitative, but none is more valuable or significant than the other. However, you can measure the validity of a good theory by its reproducible product. In other words, a valid theory will withstand the rigors of testing and will yield similar outcomes over time. Benner’s novice to expert theory is widely used in facilities to support nursing education and how students learn in the clinical area.

Why is Nursing Theory Important in Research?

Nursing theory plays a crucial role in research for various reasons. In addition, they provide a framework for comprehension, explaining, and predicting various aspects of nursing practice, education, and research.

Below are some reasons why nursing theory is essential in research, including:

  • Enhances communication and collaboration
  • Supports evidence-based practice
  • Guide research questions and design
  • Enhances data interpretation
  • Identifies gaps in knowledge

Enhances Communication and Collaboration

Nursing theory enhances communication and collaboration by providing a common framework and language for you to convey ideas. In addition, it helps you coordinate care, articulate nursing interventions, and work interprofessionally.

When grounded in a shared theory, you can more clearly express clinical thinking and rationale in a way that promotes mutual understanding between colleagues, researchers, and other healthcare providers. Therefore, facilitating efficient teamwork.

Supports Evidence-Based Practice

Nursing theory supports evidence-based practice by providing a conceptual framework to systematically evaluate and implement research findings. In addition, theories guide you in assessing current practices against evidence and identifying gaps where practices may need to change based on research.

Furthermore, they guide you in developing new interventions, care models, or clinical guidelines informed by empirical evidence. Nursing theory and research work synergistically to enhance patient care through data-driven best practices.

Guide Research Questions and Design

Nursing theory is essential for guiding research questions and design. It provides an orienting framework and foundation for formulating significant research aims. In addition, when developing research in nursing, theories facilitate mapping out relevant concepts, variables, and their relationships to systematically investigate a problem.

Furthermore, theoretical frameworks steer researchers toward meaningful avenues for inquiry and data collection that directly pertain to the theory’s key propositions and tenets. Ultimately, nursing theories direct research efforts toward generating knowledge that speaks to theoretical assumptions and tenets rather than producing disconnected findings.

Therefore, by grounding studies within broader conceptual frameworks, nursing theory promotes research that coherently and cumulatively advances more comprehensive understanding.

Enhances Data Interpretation

Nursing theory provides essential frameworks that guide how you collect and interpret data. Therefore, having a solid theoretical basis for a study enhances the ability to extract meaning from findings and situate them within broader knowledge.

Theoretical models structure inquiry and allow researchers to see patterns that may have gone unnoticed during analysis.  In addition, robust theories illuminate the significance of results.

Identifies Gaps in Knowledge

Nursing theory identifies knowledge gaps in patient care and health outcomes that research studies can then seek to address. Nursing theories reveal areas lacking robust evidence by conceptualizing ideal models of nursing practice and delineating their components. In addition, they reveal areas that lack effective interventions or comprehensive understanding.

Research guided by theory supplies missing information needed to validate and advance the theoretical framework. Ultimately, nursing research driven by theory translates into improved care delivery and patient well-being by filling those knowledge voids.

What are the Levels of Nursing Theory?

There are generally three levels of nursing theory, which begin with abstract ideas and become more specific according to each level. The three main categories of nursing theories are grand, middle-range, and practice-level nursing theories. However, different levels of nursing theories may influence others.

Below is a detailed information on each type.

Grand Nursing Theories

Grand nursing theories are the broadest category. The most abstract and complex concepts and propositions provide a general nursing care framework. In addition, a grand nursing theory can apply to various nursing care environments and situations.

Ida Jean Orlando-Pelletier’s Deliberative Nursing Process Theory is an example of a grand nursing theory. This theory evaluates the definition of the function of nursing and the integration between the nurse and the patient. In addition, it explains how to use the nursing process to enhance patient outcomes.

Therefore, using a broad theory like this one, nurses, nurse educators and researchers can apply the theory in various patient settings and use it with other more specific nursing theories to determine the most optimal outcomes.

Middle-Range Nursing Theories

Middle-range nursing theories are more specific in focus compared to grand nursing theories, but they’re broader than the more specific practice-level nursing theories. In addition, middle-range nursing theories may derive from theories of similar disciplines, nursing research or nursing practice.

Middle-range theories are more verifiable through testing since they’re less abstract than grand nursing theories. Furthermore, these theories attempt to explain, describe or predict specific issues in clinical nursing practice.

Imogene King’s Theory of Goal Attainment is an example of a middle-range nursing theory. This theory focuses on the factors that affect the attainment of specific life goals and explains how a nurse and a patient can communicate, set goals together and take action to achieve goals.

Moreover, the theory examines how the personal, interpersonal, and social systems affect goal attainment.

Practice-Level Nursing Theories

Practice-level nursing theories are situation-specific. In addition, they are the narrowest in scope and focus of the three levels of nursing theories. They may be based on concepts from grand nursing theories and middle-range nursing theory but equip specific frameworks for specific nursing interventions.

Moreover, nurses and nurse researchers may apply a practice-level nursing theory when it relates to a defined patient population at a specific time. Since these theories are more specific and unique, they may draw upon multiple theories to create the optimal recommended practice for that specific patient group.

For instance, a nurse working with a mother patient may draw upon elements of middle-range nursing theories like the Maternal Role Attainment Theory by Ramona Mercer and the Life Perspective Rhythm Model by Dr. Joyce Fitzpatrick to provide optimal maternal patient care.

Who Uses Nursing Theory?

Various nursing professionals, including students, nursing professors, clinical researchers, and practicing nurses, use nursing theories. Below is an in-depth examination of the types of professionals who use nursing theories, including:

  • Academic professionals and nursing students
  • Researchers
  • Practicing nurses

Academic Professionals and Nursing Students

Both professors and students may use nursing theories in academic settings. In addition, professors might use them when teaching nursing students about best practices in the field. Furthermore, they might also reference nursing theories when teaching students how to care for different types of patients.

Additionally, nursing theories may help students with a reference as they prepare for their careers by working with genuine or model patients in clinical settings. Professors and students can also use nursing theories to conduct their research in nursing.


Researchers use existing nursing theories as resources, which can help them develop informed foundations for their research projects. Referencing current theories in their publications can assist researchers in demonstrating their comprehension of a specific nursing concept or specialty.

Additionally, researchers can use nursing theories for formal or informal research purposes, like research papers or case studies.

Practicing Nurses

Professional nurses may use nursing theories as guides when working directly with patients. For instance, if a nurse encounters a patient with a health condition they have little experience treating, they can apply practice-level nursing theories to help their patient recover effectively.

In addition, nurses may use nursing theories occasionally or daily, depending on their needs or personal preferences.


In summary, nursing theory equips a vital foundation for the nursing profession by articulating philosophies, scaffoldings, and models to guide practice, education, and research. The three levels of nursing theory—grand, middle-range, and practice-level—each serve important yet distinct purposes for advancing nursing knowledge and improving patient outcomes.

Grand theories parade overarching conceptual frameworks, middle-range theories test and verify those concepts, while practice-level theories translate them into specific interventions and protocols. Nursing students, educators, researchers, and knocking-up nurses utilize nursing theories at various levels.

This is to gain eye-openers, develop evidence-based care, fill knowledge gaps, and continuously enhance the quality and effectiveness of nursing practice. Overall, nursing theory is pre-eminent for fostering nursing excellence, optimizing patient well-being, and pushing the boundaries of healthcare forward. However, if you are looking for the highest quality nursing essays and nursing dissertations, you can place your order here

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