From Novice to Expert by Patricia Benner



From Novice to Expert by Patricia Benner

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Nursing theory is used in the dissemination, development, and description of present knowledge in the field of nursing. It encapsulates a framework of concepts and purposes that can be used as a blueprint within the realm of nursing. The theory has been integral in professional nursing as it guides the nursing practice and improves patient care. Similarly, most theories used in nursing provide underpinnings to nursing care, thus helping nurses apply their analytical as well as critical thinking skills.

However, future theorists should ensure that nursing theory remains applicable to the nursing practice regardless of the evolving health care landscape. For this paper, the identified nursing theory will be Patricia Benner: From Novice to Expert nursing theory. Thus, the paper will emphasize the importance of nursing theory and the summary of the selected nursing theory. It will also culminate in the application of the selected nursing theory to the selected professional nursing practice area.

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The Importance of This Nursing Theory

Nursing theory is useful to the nursing profession because it provides the principles that underpin practice. This helps in the generation of further nursing knowledge (Alligood, 2013). Similarly, the theory predicts and explains the nursing phenomenon by indicating the direction that future nursing practice ought to conform to. Moreover, nursing theory can give nurses a sense of identity, thus helping health care professionals acknowledge the input of nurses in the realm of health care services.

In addition, the nursing theory has been imperative in the education, training, and development of professional nurses (Meleis, 2011) because the theory influences patient care and outcomes in everyday nursing practice. The theory also inculcates new knowledge and data that would influence future nursing practice. Furthermore, nursing theory is useful in the nursing profession as it demystifies the scope of nursing because the nursing and caring exponent cannot be measured (Smith & Parker, 2015).

The nursing theory should be included in a master’s program because future nurses need to appreciate the theory by having it incorporated into nursing education. Moreover, the inclusion of nursing theory in the program will enable future nurses to be acquainted with the theory at an earlier stage of their profession (Alligood, 2013). In this regard, they will understand the skills required to perform research as well as receive an understanding of nursing theory. Subsequently, this narrows the theory-practice gap.

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Moreover, it also fosters the development of the nursing theory (Alligood, 2013). However, this can be easily achieved when nursing educators emphasize making the promotion of nursing theory a priority. After all, nursing may not gain enough professional recognition and autonomy if nursing theories are not incorporated into research, practice, education, and administration.

Nursing theory can separate the nursing profession from other health care professions through the provision of a theoretical basis for specific predicaments (Smith & Parker, 2015). This provides generic care based on medicine, thus grounding the practice of nursing on theories. However, the major concern regarding the use of theory in the nursing profession is whether the theory applies to nursing as an art or as a science (Meleis, 2011). The two schools of nursing (art and science) are mutually exclusive and they have a significant impact on the underpinning philosophy of the discipline. Moreover, the nursing theory uses complex language, whereas the theory ought to be clear and concise.

Summary of Nursing Theory From Novice to Expert

The theory was introduced and published by Dr. Patricia Benner in 1984 (Meleis, 2011). The latest edition of this nursing theory was published in 2001. The proponents of this theory dictate that expert nurses develop skills and understanding through a multitude of experiences as well as a sound educational base. According to Benner, nurses experience different predicaments and learn from them, thus improving their skills (Smith & Parker, 2015).

Therefore, experience is a prerequisite for becoming an expert (Smith & Parker, 2015). In this respect, a nurse can improve their skills without necessarily learning the basics of nursing theory. However, Benner’s theory does not focus on how to be a nurse but focuses on the process, through which nurses acquire their professional skills. Benner’s theory has been borrowed from the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition (Alligood, 2013). Her model has been a useful framework for assessing the needs of a nurse through different stages of professional growth.

The model is based on five stages of clinical competence, encompassing such stages as novice, advanced, beginner, competent, proficient, and expert (Treas & Wilkinson, 2013). A novice is a beginner with no experience who relies on being taught general rules on how to perform specific tasks. Novices’ behavior in a clinical setting is also limited and inflexible because they might not predict what might happen in a particular patient's predicament. Their lack of experience in different situations becomes a precursor to their inability to use discretionary judgment (Treas & Wilkinson, 2013).

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An advanced beginner exhibits knowledge and know-how but lacks sufficient in-depth experience. However, an advanced beginner has acquired some prior experience in actual situations, which enables him or her to acknowledge recurring meaningful components. However, advanced beginners need help in setting priorities because their operations are based on general guidelines. Moreover, their administration of care has to be backed up by a competent level nurse.

Nurse at a competent level exhibit some mastery and they can embrace advanced learning as well as organizational skills. They can also see their actions in terms of long-range goals or plans. However, competent level nurses can recognize patterns and clinical situations quicker than advanced beginners can even though they lack the speed and flexibility of a proficient nurse. They also lack the ability to recognize a particular situation in light of the overall picture. Furthermore, a proficient nurse perceives and understands situations as a whole (Treas & Wilkinson, 2013).

They also learn from experience and they can easily modify plans in response to different levels. A proficient nurse also has an improved ability to make decisions because such nurses exhibit a more holistic understanding of predicaments. Finally, at an expert level, nurses have an intuitive grasp of a situation and they no longer rely on analytical principles or guidelines. Moreover, expert nurses will only use analytical tools when they are not familiar with a certain event or when events materialize contrary to expectations.

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The theory From Novice to Expert also addresses the meta paradigms of nursing that encapsulate person, health, environment, and the nursing profession. For instance, in regards to the person, the theory has acknowledged that a person is defined in the course of living life because nobody comes to the world predefined. Therefore, the theory deals with the person as the role of the body, the role of personal concerns, and the role of temporality as well as the role of situations. The theory also addresses the nursing metaparadigm by acknowledging that the nurse-client relationship necessitates high levels of emotional attachment (Alligood, 2013).

The theory also recognizes that nursing incorporates the care and study of the lived experience of health. In regards to health, the theory stipulates that health is what can be assessed while well-being involves the human experience of wholeness. Therefore, health is not confined to illness and the absence of disease.

The theory also addresses the environment metaparadigm by pointing out that the environment is an equivalent of a person’s engaged interaction and interpretation of a specific predicament. Benner interchanges the term environment with the situation because it depicts a social environment with social definition and meaning. Benner’s theory was selected because it sheds light on the different domains of nursing practice. The theory can be potentially used in the nurse practitioner’s master track by addressing the general rules to help perform tasks. Subsequently, this demystifies the development of knowledge in applied disciplines.

Application of Patricia Benner Nursing Theory

The theory defines and explains a nurse practitioner as someone who relies reliance on past abstract principles and uses concrete experience that is acquired gradually (Treas & Wilkinson, 2013). The practitioner also networks with other health care providers in the quest of acquiring new information and directions pertaining to the nursing practice. This is what begins the growth process of a nursing practitioner because gaining experience comes with an increase in self-confidence as well as knowledge.

The theory also defines and explains a nurse practitioner as someone ready to acquire new skills in the course of their profession (Alligood, 2013). In this regard, they emphasize experiential learning to perfect their practice. Moreover, a practitioner is not an observer in the realm of medical practice but an involved performer who acquires knowledge from experts. In addition, the practitioner should acknowledge that being an expert does not depict the acquisition of a prestigious or higher-paying position but having the ability to deliver exemplary patient care does.


Nursing theory pertains to a systematic articulation of statements pertinent to questions in the nursing discipline. It can be applied in the description, prediction, and explanation of the nursing phenomenon. The theory From Novice to Expert developed by Patricia Benner emphasizes the importance of experiential learning as a method of acquiring professional skills. Therefore, one can acquire skills through a multitude of experiences without ever learning the relevant theory. What has been learned from the assignment is that nursing theory forms the basis of nursing practice. Moreover, certain nursing procedures should be guided by specific nursing theories.

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