Nursing Conceptual Frameworks: A Content Analysis of Subconcepts and Themes Related to Man, Environment, Health and Nursing Used in Baccalaureate, Associate Degree, and Diploma Nursing Education in Maryland and Delaware

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In contemporary nursing education, the conceptual framework is the keystone and foundation upon which nursing curricula are built. This study used a content analysis approach to review conceptual framework documents within nursing curricula to identify the extent to how the four major concepts of "Man", "Environment", "Health", and "Nursing" are defined and used. Data used in this study were gathered from twenty-one conceptual framework documents as well as six program philosophy documents in instances where formal conceptual frameworks had not been developed. This sample included eight Baccalaureate Degree, fifteen Associate Degree, and four diploma programs. The content analysis consisted of identifying subconcepts and themes provided in the documents which were then categorized as falling into one of the major concepts of "Man", "Environment", "Health" or "Nursing". For example, the subconcept of illness was categorized under the concept of "Health". From an examination of the conceptual framework documents, the following conclusions emerged:

  1. Content analysis was an effective way to identify the extent to which subconcepts fall into the identified major concepts.
  2. The three levels of nursing programs similarly defined and used common subconcepts to describe the four major concepts.
  3. There were discernible differences in emphasis found between the three levels. For example, the baccalaureate models emphasized "Man" as an adaptive behavioral system who has freedom of choice and "Nursing" in which research and leadership nursing roles were addressed. On the other hand, associate degree and diploma documents emphasized the needs of "Man" and stressed the provider role of nursing care. In light of the current controversy over differentiating between the three levels of entry into practice, these findings support the idea that similar subconcepts are used by all three levels of nursing curricula. This study found that baccalaureate, associate degree, and diploma programs borrow from the same theoretical concepts and use these concepts similarly in their conceptual framework documents. Subconcepts and themes identified in this study could be further examined to more clearly specify and define the essential attributes of each concept for theory development and clinical practice.