• discourse;
  • nursing;
  • phenomenology;
  • practice;
  • practitioner;
  • theorizing;
  • theory–practice

The theory–practice relationship in nursing: the practitioners’ perspective

Within contemporary scholarly discourse, there are a number of distinctive approaches to understanding the theory–practice relationship. Carr identifies four principal approaches, each of which is sustained within explicit views about the nature of theory. Carr terms these approaches the ‘common-sense’ approach, the ‘applied-science’ approach, the ‘practical’ approach and the ‘critical’ approach. Each approach is recoverable from the explicit and implicit content of scholarly literature. The study reported here sought to uncover the ways in which practising nurses understand the relationship between theory and practice and to establish the extent to which their explicit and implicit understandings accord with Carr’s typology. The study involved in-depth interviews with six practising nurses. The purpose of the interviews was to prompt each study participant to enter into a reflective mode in a way that would generate narrative information, which would illustrate the various ways in which each theorized with respect to the theory–practice relationship. In this reflective theorizing, the study participants indicated that they understood the theory–practice relationship in ways that accorded with elements of Carr’s typology. A brief discussion considers the limitations of the study and the implications for further research into the theory–practice relationship.