How Nursing Theory Can be Validated by Virtual Care

What is Nursing Theory
Nursing theory is defined “as a conceptualization of some aspect of nursing reality communicated for the purpose of describing phenomena, explaining relationship between phenomena, predicting consequences, or prescribing nursing care” by Afaf I. Meleis, PhD, DrPS(hon), FAAN, LL, former Dean of Penn Nursing.   Nursing theory is critical to improving the nursing practice by positively influencing the health and quality of life of patients, as noted in the Journal of Nursing Research and Practice.  Usama Saleh, RN, BSN, MSN, PhD, states that “the relationship between theory and practice is reciprocal; practice is the basis for the development of nursing theory whereas nursing theory must be validated in practice.”

How Virtual Care Can Validate Nursing Theory
Virtual care environments represent an ideal way to continue validating the practice of nursing theory while handling the day-to-day realities of providing care to patients.  As Ann E. Fronczek, RN; PhD, indicates in Nursing Theory in Virtual Care , “in order for nursing practice to advance, the means of developing rapport and relationships for nursing care interactions need to evolve with these virtual environments.”  Virtual care technology offers many ways to transform the nursing practice:

  • Care can be provided in nontraditional spaces and times, meaning, the nurses and patients may be in different locations.
  • Nurses can now assess, diagnose, plan, implement and evaluate care of patients across time and distance, pushing the boundaries of the scope of practice.
  • Patients can access nurses directly when/where it is personally convenient for them.
  • Nursing care can be further innovated, increasing the flexibility of care delivery.
  • Health information and trends can be communicated in more dynamic modalities such as video, text, SMS, and email.

As Fronczek concludes, nurses are in the “prime position to expand their scope of practice into remote and virtual care settings that not only transcend time, but also space and location.”   

How Visiting Nurses Can Use Virtual Care in Theory and Practice
With a virtual care communication platform, visiting nurses and related home health clinicians can use multiple touchpoints to communicate with their patients, ensuring that patients are receiving the right care at the right time, in the right modality which is preferred by the patient. 

The idea of “presence” will evolve along with the theory and practice of nursing.  As Fronczek pointed out, a top concern of using virtual care is whether nursing is “being diluted to a point of losing the sense of presence in interactions.”  The idea of “being there and being with” will mean something slightly different when the care is provided in a video call or in email, SMS, or text messages.  Even though virtual care technology limits the nurse from reaching at-home patients with physical touch, nurses can continue to deliver critical and compassionate care in their virtual care-based interactions with patients.

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