Using phronesis instead of ‘research-based practice’ as the guiding light for nursing practice


  • Don Flaming RN MN PhD student (University of Calgary)

    1. Nursing Faculty, Medicine Hat College, 299 College Dr SW, Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, T1A 3Y6
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AbstractPhronesis, a popular Aristotelian concept that emphasizes deliberation and moral action, should replace the phrase ‘research-based practice’ as the guiding light for nursing practice. Knowledge from research is still essential, of course, but is insufficient by itself for practice. In this paper, the author describes assumptions behind the apparent superiority of research-based knowledge, and offers a critique of this position. One critique is that by automatically accepting the superiority of research-based knowledge other types of knowledge (e.g. intuitive, ethical, personal) are devalued. A second critique is that undeliberated, indiscriminate use of research findings may lead to inappropriate nursing practice. Phronesis is then described, and its application to nursing. For example, phronesis requires that the context of the situation be considered very carefully before acting. Aristotle stated that the goal of personal phronesis is to reach eudaimonia, or genuine happiness or ‘human flourishing’. Infusing nursing practice with phronesis means that an anthropomorphized discipline's eudaimonia would be the eudaimonia of patients. That is, nursing practice would be guided by a desire for patients' genuine happiness or human flourishing. The final section of the paper offers rebuttals to potential criticisms.