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Will staring at frogs make us into better nurses?

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If there is one thing frogs are well known for it is their ability to build floating foam nests. Nests that look like meringue, are perfectly balanced and protect their young in even the harshest of conditions.

OK, to be fair, they are also known for being good at jumping, giving the world Kermit and saying “ribbit” but, once we get past the frog stereotyping that has so held them back, we find they can do stuff with foam that would knock your socks off.

Scientists have been studying the remarkably sturdy frog house and have discovered that it is an incredibly intricate construction that they hope might be replicable in developing medical applications such as biofoams that can aid treatment at the scenes of accidents.

Well done science, eh? Not content with your outstanding work in immunology, cancer and the combustion engine, your never dulling drive for enquiry persuaded a bunch of people to spend months staring at Tungara frogs in Trinidad in the hope of gathering some information that could be translated into something constructive or that at least expands our knowledge base. The method that became a world view that is science has done brilliant things.

‘If research is to do with generating meaning, do we really think science is the only way to do that? Or do we know that science is the only thing that gets funded?’

We know that science can produce bad things, too. But that is not the fault of the method - that is the responsibility of those who apply it without wisdom. You can be alarmed by some of its consequences, but science has provided us with the modern world and mostly that’s a good thing. Right?

So, when a leading nursing professor tells nursing that we need to be more scientific in our approach to research and we need to invest massively in nursing research, we know that she is making a clear statement advocating for nurses to contribute to research and demanding the means to do it. And that’s good.

But science isn’t the only way. It may be the most acceptable way, it may be the most obvious - but it isn’t the only way. Because nursing is not just a science, and, more notably, the questions it needs to ask are not always best framed by science.

If research is to do with generating knowledge or meaning, do we really think science is the only way to do that? Or do we simply know that science is the only thing that will get funded?

Some important questions that face nursing might include things like “How can nurses manage the emotional consequences of nursing?” Or “How might the good nurse embody the term ‘holistic care’ in a meaningful and beneficial way?” Science might not be the best method of exploration here. We might need something else, something a little more philosophical.

If science is your thing, then do it brilliantly to the benefit of your patients and profession. But it isn’t the only way and, frankly, it hasn’t been for a long time. Nursing may be better recognised when it does science better but it will also be better served when it has the courage to expand its methods of enquiry to better suit its breadth of character and uniqueness.

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • Perhaps we need to be brave and say that nursing is an art form!

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  • I think you are on the right track...
    this from a nurse who's psychiatry instructor (34 years ago) would say, "If the hairs on the back of your neck start to tingle - you need to find out why".
    Still in psychiatry

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  • Can nursing science tell us how to do more with less nurses? Can it tell us how to get to the end of a shift and finish on time and not be exhausted? Can it tell us how to safely assume responsibility for greater numbers of patients?
    If nursing science can provide answers to such questions then I'm all for it.

    http://shadesofgreynursing.blogspot.com/

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  • Can nursing science tell us how to do more with less nurses? Can it tell us how to get to the end of a shift and finish on time and not be exhausted? Can it tell us how to safely assume responsibility for greater numbers of patients?
    If nursing science can provide answers to such questions then I'm all for it.

    http://shadesofgreynursing.blogspot.com/

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