Public health nursing has a rich history demonstrating the difference that nursing makes in the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. This “Editor’s Pick” article by Adeline Falk-Rafael, PhD, RN, FAAN and Claire Betker, MN, RN, CCHN(C) titled “The Primacy of Relationships: A Study of Public Health Nursing Practice from a Critical Caring Perspective” makes a major contribution showing evidence of the potential influence of public health nursing when nurses can practice to the full scope of practice. Their research explored the relevance of the mid-range theory of critical caring to the practice of expert public health nursing, and provides evidence that supports a critical caring approach to nursing practice. They each speak to their experience with this research:
I (Adeline Falk-Rafael) never set out to “develop” a nursing theory, nor do I claim to have done that. Critical Caring reflects public health nursing as I experienced it in my own practice and observed it in the practice of other public
health nurses (PHNs) and taught it to nursing students. Although I had used Watson’s Caring Science to inform my own practice, as I taught public health nursing, I began to realize the influence of Nightingale as well as feminist and critical social theories on contemporary public health nursing practice. I see Critical Caring, therefore, as a descriptive mid-range theory of public health nursing that I have set into a theoretical framework.
The study described in part in this article began in 2005. After the initial data were gathered, professional and personal circumstances made it impossible for me to continue with the work. I owe my most profound thanks to Claire Betker, a public health nurse with a breadth of public health nursing experience. Beginning her doctoral studies in 2010, Claire saw value in the theory and approached me about work we might do together. Together we began to analyze the data that, in turn, energized us to complete the study.
I (Claire Betker) embarked on doctoral studies, as I wanted to contribute to theory to guide the practice of public health nurses so their practice could be better articulated and made visible. Early into my studies, I discovered that in 2005 Dr. Adeline Falk-Rafael had published several articles describing a middle range theory, Critical Caring, that
rooted public health nursing practice in an expanded nursing caring science and the social justice agenda characteristic of early public health nursing practice. Adeline describes a reciprocal relationship between theory and
public health nursing practice which she illustrated using a metaphor of a tree (practice) anchored by its roots (theory) where theory is nourished by practice and continues to evolve while supporting practice and giving it definition. This description of theory and the 7 carative health promoting process that represent the ‘core’ of public health nursing practice resonated with what I had experienced in practice, just as they did with the participants in the research described in this article. I encourage those within the pubic health nursing community to consider how Critical Caring could: a) guide practice; b) assist us to articulate and give voice to our practice and its importance; and c) be a tool of resistance to those forces that prevent PHNs from working to their full scope of practice.
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