What Is the Metaparadigm of Nursing?

A metaparadigm is “a set of concepts and propositions that sets forth the phenomena with which a discipline is concerned.” In simple terms, it is all the features that go into a single framework — or everything that goes into being a nurse.

The metaparadigm of nursing offers a holistic approach to care. Taking into consideration the person, their environment, their health, and the practice of nursing itself, the metaparadigm considers everything that goes into caring for a patient. It provides a foundation for applying the essential skills nurses must possess. This comprehensive look at health and wellbeing allows Registered Nurses (RNs) to not only meet their patient’s physical needs, but their social and emotional needs as well.

Jacqueline Fawcett appropriated the word “metaparadigm” from philosophers Margaret Masterman and Thomas Kuhn, repurposing it for the field of nursing. She did this in an effort to organize the field via a philosophical affirmation, allowing the practice of nursing to be deemed as rigorously “scientific.”

Although scientists reject her claim, there is something to be said about encouraging holistic care. Aspiring RNs should carefully study the metaparadigm of nursing in order to serve their patients the best they can. The metaparadigm and the theory behind it may be a helpful framework for nurses to use in answering common interview questions, or articulating their goals and values in cover letters when applying for jobs.


The person component of the metaparadigm consists of the patient, as well as the patient’s family and friends. Reaching beyond the patient’s physical needs, the person component also takes into consideration one’s spiritual, emotional, and social needs. This allows a nurse to visualize a patient as more than just a sum of their medical history.

The ultimate goal here is to empower the patient to manage their own health and wellbeing, which requires taking care of one’s social health. Nurses can help patients do this by emphasizing the need to maintain personal connections. A patient’s emotional needs can be met by allowing them to voice what they’re going through and how they’re feeling.

Visualizing patients as more than “just patients” may help nurses find more satisfaction in their jobs and avoid burnout. As a result, the person component of the metaparadigm is beneficial to both patients and nurses.


The environmental component of the metaparadigm focuses on the patient’s surroundings. This component extends beyond a patient’s physical surroundings to include both their emotional and social surroundings as well. In other words, a patient’s surroundings can include anything that may have an impact on their health and wellbeing.

Interactions with family, friends, and even their community can be classified as a part of the environmental component, as can economic conditions or geographic locations. Whereas a bad economy may negatively affect a patient’s stress levels, interactions with loved ones may have the opposite effect. Other aspects of the environmental component include culture, social connections, and technology.

It is important for nurses to realize their role in a patient’s environment as well. Creating a comfortable environment is one of many crucial nursing duties, whether work is performed in-person or through telehealth.


The health component correlates with where a person falls on the health-illness continuum at the time of their encounter with a nurse. The health-illness continuum as a whole, however, depicts the changes in health and wellbeing throughout that patient’s lifetime. It’s important to understand that any individual’s health will always be in flux, and that while you may have been sick or healthy before, that can and will continue to change for the rest of your lifetime. Additionally, it’s just as important to understand that any individual’s specific health history may continue to affect them in unique ways for the rest of their lives; this is why it’s called a continuum!

All of this information determines how a nurse goes forward in providing the best possible treatment plan relative to a patient’s health history. This sense of relativity is important; what may be healthy for an 18-year-old boy is unlikely to be healthy for an 80-year-old man. As such, treatment plans are individualized.

Like other components, this includes physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual wellbeing. Matters to take into consideration include chronic illnesses, genetic makeup, mental health disorders, and more.


The nursing component of the metaparadigm considers everything you learned in school, in the field, and everywhere in between. From theory and practice to collaborations and communication, the nursing component is representative of one’s nursing skills and the knowledge it takes to carry out the duties and responsibilities associated with providing patient care.

Hard skills and knowledge do not necessarily reign supreme when observing or practicing nursing; the ability to show empathy and compassion is just as much a part of the nursing component as is performing a procedure or reading a chart.

All in all, the nursing component can be thought of as the actionable side of the former concepts. Everything a nurse does for their patient could be included. Integrating with other components of the metaparadigm, the actual practice of nursing rounds out the four basic concepts of Fawcett’s theory.

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