Patterns of Knowing in Nursing

The general conception of any inquiry field implies that a certain kind of knowledge should be developed in this field as well as the manners in which this knowledge should be organized and applied. According to Carper (1978), “the body of knowledge that serves as the rationale for nursing practice has patterns, forms, and structure that serve as horizons of expectations and exemplify characteristic ways of thinking about phenomena” (p. 13). For the learning and teaching of nursing, the understanding of these patterns is highly essential.

In addition, the understanding of these forms and patterns related to nursing implicates critical attention to the issue concerning significant and valuable knowledge in this scientific discipline. Carper (1978) identifies four fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing – aesthetics, personal, ethics, and empirical. Aesthetic knowledge is characterized by the awareness of a particular situation that requires immediate practical actions. The aesthetic pattern refers to the underlying reasons that may lead to a certain issue or incident in the nursing practice. Personal knowledge derives from personal empathy and self-understanding through the process of observation and reflection. The personal pattern is based on the nurse’s experience and knowledge and includes imagining herself or himself in the position of a patient.

The ethics pattern includes knowledge and attitudes that derive from the nursing ethical framework and include the nurse practitioner’s awareness of moral choices and questions. Moreover, ethical knowledge helps nursing professionals to identify appropriate and incorrect actions. Finally, the empirical pattern is applicable for evidence-based practice and refers to factual and scientific knowledge that may be empirically verified. Empirical knowledge is well-structured and systematically organized into theories and laws.

One challenging practice situation which I was unprepared for to a certain extent is closely related to the aspect of cultural ethics and person-centered care in nursing. The family of a newborn son refused the procedure of vaccination according to their religious beliefs. Although I tried to change their opinion by recommending the immunization, they were uncompromising. Later, I discovered that I had faced with cultural imposition. This phenomenon may be defined as the determination of one person to impose his or her cultural values and beliefs on other people as dominant and right ones.

I currently understand that my words were inappropriate as a competent nurse should respect the cultural and religious peculiarities and differences of patients. However, from a personal perspective, I had felt highly uncomfortable and annoyed at that time due to the parent’s refusal of their child’s vaccination. I had been certain that their decision would have a highly negative impact on their son, as vaccination may protect them from multiple diseases. In addition, an infected child may be potentially dangerous for other children and adults. Moreover, in the future, a child may have certain problems connected with public schooling due to the absence of immunization.

Due to a critical analysis of my actions as a nurse practitioner, I understood that I acted non-professionally. Modern standards and guidelines of nursing integrate the principles of cultural humility into practice that consider the importance of all values of culturally-diverse patients. Fortunately, with the help of reflective practice, I managed to identify my mistake in a prompt manner. It goes without saying that the critical analysis and the practice of intentional reflection are immeasurably helpful for me. I will unquestionably use these methods in my nursing practice in challenging situations to evaluate the accuracy of my actions and decisions.


Carper, B. A. (1978). Fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing. Advances in Nursing Science, 1(1), 13-24.

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