Three Ways of Knowing in Nursing Practices

Topic: Nursing
Words: 569 Pages: 2


Nursing practices rely on a foundation of knowledge that stems from several sources. Processes and decisions provided by nurses are directed by academic, personal, and social interpretations of information. The value of implementing a number of ways of knowing within nurse experiences cannot be understated, as it can define successful and beneficial interactions with patients and peers. These methodologies can be observed through Carper’s fundamental ways of knowing, including empirical, personal, and ethical.

Empirical Way of Knowing

The empirical way of knowing can be summarized as a method of information gathering that relies on factual knowledge, science, external sources, or any other data that can be empirically verified. Within the sphere of nursing, the empirical way of knowing can demonstrate abstract and theoretical explanations on a practical level. The use of models, theories, generalizations, specifics, and instructions is often based on the empirical way of knowing (Brennan, 2018). The empirical foundation of all nursing practices stemmed from systematic inquiry through either experimental, naturalistic, or observational interactions. It is common for nurse practitioners to recognize and understand patient responses through controlled studies and scientific information. With empirical data becoming more and more prevalent within the nursing practice in the past century, much of nursing standards and processes will likely continue to follow empirical data.

Personal Way of Knowing

The personal way of knowing refers to knowledge that is attained through self-understanding and empathy, such as through imaging oneself in the position of the patient (Brennan, 2018). The personal way of knowing can also illustrate and influence the understanding of one’s interactions with others. This way of knowing promotes the belief that while experience does not inherently educate, a personal reflection of any event is what allows an individual to grow. This theory can be applied to nursing practices as well. As such, the empathy and reflection process that occurs in the personal way of knowing allows nurses to approach a patient in an appropriate manner and form a professional and authentic relationship with them. This relationship provides a nurse with appropriate skills to apply scientific and clinical knowledge with the patient’s trust and cooperation. Good use of the personal way of knowing allows a nurse to empathize with a patient and make decisions that address their needs while respecting their integrity.

Ethical Way of Knowing

The ethical way of knowing can be defined as creating attitudes and knowledge that are derived from an ethical framework, which can include an individual’s awareness of moral inquiries and choices (Brennan, 2018). The implementation of the ethical way of knowing within nursing settings enables nurses to apply the morality associated with choices to the treatment and interaction with the patients. Time and new experiences can alter an individual’s moral-based decision-making. The extrinsic foundation of decision is based on avoiding punishments and receiving rewards, but as individuals develop, they can apply more complex morality to societal structures. This also occurs in individuals that become more experienced with nursing practices.


In nursing practitioners, regardless of their cultural background, gender, or other factors, a capacity to care is fundamental. As such, nurses are able to connect with patients by being motivated to care for their wellbeing and needs due to their ethical way of knowing. The combination of the three ways of knowing not only allows nurses to find appropriate approaches toward patients but ensures the best use of their knowledge, skill sets, and resources.


Brennan, P. (2018). Celebrating nurses’ ways of knowing. National Library of Medicine. Web.

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