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Jean Watson

Dr. Jean Watson is one of the foremost nursing theorists of the 20th century as well as an educator, international speaker, researcher and author. Her theory Philosophy and Science of Caring focuses on empathy and caring as an essential part of the nursing process and includes the nurse as a beneficiary of that caring.

Personal Life

Dr. Watson was born as Margaret Jean Harman on June 10, 1940, in a small town in West Virginia close to the Appalachian Mountains. She was the youngest of eight children and was raised in a family oriented environment. After graduating with a diploma from Lewis Gale School of Nursing in Roanoke, Virginia, in 1961, she married her husband, Douglas Watson. They moved to Boulder in his home state of Colorado where she continued her education. She credits her husband with his unwavering support and encouragement for her career. They had two daughters who are now grown and have given her five grandchildren.

In 1997, Dr. Watson was in an accident that cost the sight of her left eye and subsequently required her to have a prosthesis. She developed a healing process that brought her back to health and experienced the theory of caring in her personal recovery. She said that this experience taught her to see herself and her surroundings in a new way and gave her a more complete insight that she brought to her teaching and nursing career. After 37 years of marriage, her husband died in March of 1998, but Dr. Watson says that he is still a large part of her life and his memory motivates her to continue her work.

Education and Career

After moving to Colorado, Watson enrolled at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, and earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in 1964. In 1966, she received a master's degree in psychiatric mental health nursing with a minor in psychology from the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver. She did graduate study at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in social and clinical psychology in 1969 through 1970 and received her Ph.D. in educational psychology and counseling in 1973.

Watson joined the faculty of the University of Colorado and became the Dean of Nursing at the University Health Sciences Center. Presently, she holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Nursing, the highest honor given to faculty members for scholarly work. She is also the Murchinson-Scoville Chair in Caring Science, the first endowed chair in Caring Science at the Colorado Health Sciences Center.

After researching human caring and loss, she formed her nursing theory that was first published in 1979 as Nursing: The Philosophy and Science of Caring. The book has been revised several times as the theory has evolved and is used as part of the curriculum in many nursing schools today. In addition to her research and teaching, she has lectured across the United States and throughout the world. She is past president of the National League for Nursing and established the Center for Human Caring in the 1980s. In 2008, she founded the non-profit foundation, the Watson Caring Science Institute, to spread the principles of caring science in the United States and internationally.

Honors and Awards

Dr. Watson holds three honorary doctoral degrees from universities in the United States and five internationally. She received a Kellogg Fellowship in Australia and a Fulbright Research Award in Sweden. In 1993, she received the prestigious Martha E. Rogers Award from the National League for Nursing for outstanding contributions to nursing knowledge. New York University named her as a Distinguished Nurse Scholar and in 1999, the Fetzer Institute gave her the national Norman Cousins Award that recognized her for her work in the field of patient centered care practices. She is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.

Nursing Theory

Watson's Philosophy and Science of Caring moves beyond the rigid practice of nursing and focuses on the meaning of relationships. She wanted nursing to discover new insights and knowledge concerning human behavior in health as well as illness and learn how to be in a caring professional relationship that not only served the individual but also society. Her theory is detailed and provides the framework and concepts that easily can be applied to nursing practice. The concepts have an overall benefit for the nurse as well. Finding significance in these principles brings meaning to their work and makes it a rewarding profession.

Publications related to Jean Watson

Why I Want To Be A Nurse
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