Where Virginia Henderson and Nancy Roper were concerned with the ‘how’ of nursing, Patricia Benner examined how nurses learn to nurse. Her 1984 book From Novice to Expert is still in print and much read.
The importance of this work is hard to overestimate. Her theory is that the knowledge embodied in the practical world is important for the development of nurses’ skills and ability to care. By articulating the different stages of clinical development in nursing practice, she placed a new value on clinical experience.
Patricia also helped educators and preceptors understand what they could realistically expect of new graduates - and how to help them develop into skilled nurses. She has influenced nursing practice and education in her native US and internationally..
Still researching, writing and lecturing on ethics and nursing education, she is professor emerita at the University of California, San Francisco and a fellow of the RCN.