There are three isssues related to theory and practice in nursing which are continually problematic. These are: the separation of theory from practice; reality vs the ideal; and nursing adherence to a scientific paradigm versus nursing adherence to an arts paradigm. It is suggested that Shotter's ‘theory of personal action’ (1974, 1975) may form the basis for a resolution of these three issues. Applying Shotter's work, a nursing action may be defined as an action which is deliberately thought out and which has as its goal the benefit of the patient and client. The ‘deliberate thought and goal’ of the action which is an integral component of it then forms the basis of nursing theory which is concerned with reasons for and reflections on action. This immediately unites theory and practice as two components of nursing action. The use which could be made of the theory of personal action in nursing practice, research and theory building and nurse education is explored.