Florence Nightingale’s environmental theory is a holistic approach to health care. The basis of this theory is the inter-relationship of a healthful environment with nursing. Nightingale noticed that external influences and conditions can suppress, or contribute to disease or death. The goal of the nurse should be to help patients retain their own vitality by meeting their basic needs through control of the environment. (Selanders & Crane, 2012) There are three types of environment in Nightingale’s theory. The first is the physical environment. It consist of the physical elements where the patient is being treated such as the bed, the linens, the floors and walls, and plumbing. Nightingale manipulated the physical environment by using cleanliness, heat and proper plumbing. She insisted upon patients having access to fresh air and natural sunlight. The second is the psychological environment, which can be affected by the negative physical environment.
A dirty and un-kept environment is a psychological damaging environment. One way that Nightingale manipulated this type was with the use of fresh flowers. The psychological environment requires various activities to keep the mind active and distracted from the pain and suffering of illness. It also involves therapeutic communication with the patient and family. The social environment consist of the patients hospital room and home, as well as the community that affects the patient’s specific environment. For example, a patient’s social support may consist of friends, family, church members or neighbors. (“Nursing Theory,” 2012) There are five major components of a healthful environment. They are, proper ventilation, adequate light, sufficient warmth, control of noise and control of odors. These were all important in the Nightingale theory. Fresh ventilated air can decrease the amount of germs. We know that light is important to our patients and the absence of natural light can lead to delirium. Warmth is important as it helps the body remain free from the stress caused by cold.
Decreasing the noise around our patients helps them relax and get the rest that their bodies require to heal. Controlling odors can also help our patients relax but is also important to the patient’s psychological well- being. (“Nursing Theory,” 2012) The nursing paradigm of Nightingale’s theory assumes that nursing is different from medicine and that the goal of nursing is to place the patient in the best possible condition for nature to act upon them. Nursing encompasses the all the activities that promote health and can be performed by anyone. Nursing provides fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet and a proper diet. Nursing facilitates a patient’s reparative process by ensuring the best possible environment and influences the environment to promote health. (“Nursing Theory,” 2012) Today we practice many of the aspects of Nightingales theory. Some units have quiet time to allow patients to rest. We have a butterfly garden that patients can visit that not only serves as a resource for fresh air, but also provides sunlight and a wonderful distraction from their illness.
Creasia, J. L., & Friberg, E. (2011). Conceptual Foundations, the bridge to professional nursing practice (5th ed.). St. Louise, MO: Mosby. Environmental Theory. (2012). Retrieved from www.nursingtheory.org Selanders, L. C., & Crane, P. C. (2012, January). The Voice of Florence Nightingale on Advocacy. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 17. Retrieved from www.nursingworld.com
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