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Running head: MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING

Master of Science in Nursing: A Role and Philosophy Paper


Kiel Reidenbach
Ferris State University

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING

Abstract
Roles and philosophies change as a masters education is introduced after baccalaureate
education. This paper looks to explore these roles and examine the role development that takes
place when one transitions from a bachelors degree in nursing to that of a masters prepared
nurse. Nursing specific knowledge as well as the importance of its development, and its
significance to practice is discussed. Finally, the new role of a graduate level nurse is explored
from the perspective of the author in order to identify needed changes throughout the transition
to a masters degree in nursing.

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING

Master of Science in Nursing: A Role and Philosophy Paper


Roles and philosophies change as a masters education is introduced after baccalaureate
education. Although the actual position of the nurse may remain the same, the knowledge and
experience gained through higher education changes the scope of their practice. The intent of this
paper is to identify and communicate those areas that a masters prepared nurse is responsible for
fulfilling in the nursing profession and how this differs from the role of the undergraduate nurse.
Nursing Knowledge
Having a well developed knowledge base for any profession or field lays the ground
work for the way one will function in their role. Schools must teach this knowledge, and
practitioners must cultivate it in order for one to identify with, and competently practice in their
profession. However, it is not enough to have this knowledge and have it lay stagnant.
Knowledge in nursing needs to be created, developed, utilized, and tested in order to fully
recognize the contributions that it can, and does have on practice. This aspect of practice falls to
the graduate level nurse.
Research based nursing care is an important trend in the nursing profession today. This
type of care requires continuous development and testing of nursing theory (Dudley-Brown,
1997). Continuous development and testing is imperative because knowledge is subject to
change and revision (Carper, 1978, p. 22). Current knowledge is constantly challenged by new
issues and innovations. New problems require new strategies to solve them. These new ways of
thinking may raise questions about problems thought to be resolved in the past, calling for
further inquiry and knowledge building. Therefore, knowledge is fluid. Continuous development
of nursing knowledge through research and theory testing is needed in order to have nursing
specific knowledge that is applicable and suited to meet the needs of the profession of nursing, as
well as the population it serves.
The responsibility of this theory and knowledge generation falls on the graduate level
nurse. The graduate level nurse is responsible for moving beyond simply participating in and

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING

incorporating evidence-based care into practice. Participating and incorporating are the
competencies of the baccalaureate educated nurse (American Nurses Association, 2010). A nurse
at the masters level is now accountable for contributing to nursing knowledge through research
and evaluation of current practice, providing an environment of research and clinical inquiry, and
also for disseminating findings (American Nurses Association, 2010). Through developing and
critiquing nursing theory and practice, current knowledge is challenged or supported, and new
knowledge is allowed to emerge.
Significance of Nursing Knowledge
Knowledge unique to the nursing profession is significant. Nursing staff is at the front
line of care in the current healthcare industry. In order to provide the best outcomes possible,
there must be a defined body of knowledge that guides practice and procedure. Through nursing
research and evidence-based practice (EBP), the nursing specific body of knowledge grows and
enhances outcomes for patients and their families. The utilization and development of nursing
specific knowledge is what gives nursing an identity as a profession, and also translates to better
outcomes through care that is grounded in theory and research.
Identity as a Profession
From a professional perspective, the nursing profession is in danger of losing its identity.
Nursing practice and education are being pushed toward an interdisciplinary framework as noted
by recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (Butts, Rich, & Fawcett, 2012). With this
current thinking, the profession poses a risk of losing its identity as its own profession and losing
focus on what is unique to nursing. Although an interdisciplinary framework may be where the
healthcare industry is heading, in order for true interdisciplinary practice to be a success, Fawcett
(2011) states that professional nurses must understand the conceptual models, practice, and
research of their own discipline (as cited in Butts et al., 2012). In other words, in order for one to

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING

truly function as a nurse and identify with the profession itself, one must understand what
nursing is as defined by their specific body of knowledge.
Nursing Theory
In any realm of nursing, whether it is practice, education, or research, nursing theory and
knowledge development holds significance. Roles of nurses may be different, but the goal of the
professional nurse has remained constant over time. This goal is to advocate for patients and
provide optimal care based off of evidence obtained through research (Tingen, Burnett,
Murchison, & Zhu, 2013). Theory is used to guide and advance the profession of nursing as well
as define what nursing contributes to the healthcare process. The knowledge that is derived from
theory use and development provides not only a means of discussing the nature of nursing, but
also a way to measure effectiveness of nursing practices (Fitzpatrick, & McCarthy, 2015). The
consequences of developing nursing theory that is applicable and effective in practice is what
makes theory generation and development significant to nursing.
Meta-paradigm Concepts
The four meta-paradigm concepts of person, health, environment, and nursing have been
widely embraced by the profession of nursing. They provide concepts specific to nursing in order
to further define the role and give structure to the body of knowledge that nursing can call its
own. In addition, these concepts help the nurse to understand that nursing is an intellectual
discipline and not only skills used in the care of people that are sick (Lee & Fawcett, 2013, p.
97). Nursing is more than just a trade to be learned and applied. Knowledge and growth are
required which is an active and ongoing process for every nurse, especially those holding
graduate degrees.
In evaluating theory and knowledge, significance refers to the context of the theory and
its alignment with the discipline of nursing .The meta-paradigm concepts are a means to identify
whether or not a theory is in alignment with nursings core values and therefore can be
considered significant to the nursing profession (Fawcett, 2005). The concepts of person, health,

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING

environment, and nursing must be evident within nursing theory in order to be applicable to the
profession of nursing that, in itself, embodies these four concepts.
Patterns of Knowing and Practice
There are four patterns of knowing described by Carper (1978) that are essential in
nursing practice. They include empirics, esthetics, personal knowledge, and ethics. These ways
of knowing are terms that describe the type of knowledge that is used to guide nursing practice,
and the significant role that each plays within the profession and its knowledge base. Each of
these patterns of knowing represents a necessary but not complete approach to the problems and
questions in the discipline (Carper, 1978, p. 22). By defining these concepts, nursing theory and
research can be guided not only through empirics and science, as is the case with the more
mature sciences, but also broadened to include the art of nursing (Carper, 1978, p. 14).
Theory and research serve the purpose of improving nursing practice. It provides the
foundation of nursing knowledge in schools as well as the rationale for nursing practices.
Nursing is unique in that it can be viewed as both an art and a science. This is in contrast to the
empirical and scientific nature of past and present research in other disciplines. One can argue
that this unique blend of art and science would necessitate a unique body of knowledge for
nursing because of the fact that not all aspects of nursing are explained adequately through an
empirical approach. There is an alignment between art and science in the nursing profession
(Colley, 2003). By embracing the art of nursing as well as the science of nursing in theory and
research, the nursing profession is better able to analyze, measure, and build on the unique
contribution that it has to patient care.
Role Development
When transitioning from the role of a baccalaureate prepared nurse to a masters prepared
nurse, scope and responsibility change. With advanced education in the profession comes
increased responsibility to the profession as a whole. One is no longer simply a participant in the
profession of nursing. A new role of advocacy, knowledge and theory development, and change

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING

agent is assumed. A nursing philosophy consistent with this new role includes providing the best
care possible to patients and families using the best evidence available, education that is life
long, and acknowledgement of the importance of research and theory. This philosophy will
continue to develop throughout the journey to a masters degree, and well afterward.
Through this first class, I had the opportunity to discover what nursing knowledge really
is. Most nurses in entry-level positions are involved in either direct patient care or administrative
aspects of the profession (Tingen et al., 2013). Research is not typically in the job description or
competency list. Although standards listed for the registered nurse include utilizing and
incorporating evidence into practice, contributing to, promoting, and disseminating knowledge
are listed as competencies of the graduate-level nurse (American Nurses Association, 2010). As a
nurse just starting to transition to a masters degree, there is increased awareness of the
importance of research and nursing knowledge, as well as its distribution, to the nursing
profession. This development of nursing knowledge by those who hold higher education is
imperative for the survival of nursing as its own profession as well as for the good of the patients
and families in their care.
A masters education provides the nurse with many benefits when examining role
expansion. Watkins (2011) identified four themes that influence the professionalism of masters
educated nurses. They are interconnected and impact one another in order to support the graduate
role. These four themes include increased personal confidence, enhanced professionalism,
improved cognitive functioning, and evidence based practice development (Watkins, 2011).
Obtainment of these attributes through further education will better provide the needed skills to
develop into a new role consistent with the scope and competencies of the graduate nurse.
Transitioning to a masters prepared nurse as well as utilizing and expanding the
philosophy listed above after completion of this course will be a journey. There is still much to
develop. Looking forward to future curriculum, there is ample opportunity to develop skills in

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING

leadership, advocacy, health care policy, and further research and quality improvement practices
(Ferris State University, 2013). All of these I see as necessary for a successful transition. I see
much of my role development as a transition away from being a bystander in the arena of
knowledge generation and advocacy. A movement more toward questioning current beliefs and
practices, being a catalyst for knowledge development and practice change, and a role of
advocacy for the profession of nursing is consistent with how I see my successful transition.
Conclusion
The role and philosophy of a baccalaureate prepared nurse change as one transitions to
practice as a graduate level nurse. This is evidenced in the acknowledgement of and
contributions to a unique body of knowledge to nursing. This unique body of knowledge defines
nursing as a profession and also guides and dictates how nursing care is provided. The masters
prepared nurse is in a position to have direct influence over knowledge and its development
through research and inquiry. Just having started my journey towards graduate level education,
this role change is in its infancy. Identifying those aspects in my practice that will transition me
to the graduate level is important in order for a successful change in scope and role.

MASTER OF SCIENCE IN NURSING

References
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