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The role of practical wisdom in nurse manager practice: why experience matters


  • Eloise Balasco Cathcart MSN RN FAAN,

    Clinical Associate Professor and Coordinator, Corresponding author
    1. Graduate Program in Nursing Administration, New York University College of Nursing, New York, NY, USA
    • Correspondence

      Eloise Balasco Cathcart

      New York University College of Nursing

      726 Broadway #1020

      New York

      NY 10003



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  • Miriam Greenspan MS RN

    Program Coordinator
    1. Center for Nursing Excellence, The Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA
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To illustrate through the interpretation of one representative nurse manager's narrative how the methodology of practice articulation gives language to the ways practical wisdom develops in leadership practice and facilitates learning.


Patricia Benner's corpus of research has demonstrated that reflection on clinical narratives comes closer than other pedagogical methods to replicating and enhancing the experiential learning required for the development of practical wisdom.


Using Benner's methodology of practice articulation, 91 nurse managers wrote and read to a peer group a narrative of their lived experience in the role. The groups interpreted the narratives to extract the skilled knowledge and ethics embedded in the practice of the nurse manager authors. One narrative was chosen for this paper because it is a particularly clear exemplar of how practical wisdom develops in nurse manager practice.


Articulating and reflecting on experiential learning led to an understanding of how practical wisdom developed in one nurse manager's practice.


Interpretation of the narrative of one nurse manager illustrated how reflection on a complex ethical dilemma was a source of character development for the individual and the peer group.

Implications for nursing management

Describing and interpreting how practical wisdom develops for individual nurse managers can be a source of learning for the narrative author and other role incumbents who need to make sound decisions and take prudent action in ethically challenging situations.

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