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Nurs Philos. 2003 Apr;4(1):44-52.

Expanding the use of empiricism in nursing: can we bridge the gap between knowledge and clinical practice?

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Boston College, William F. Connell School of Nursing, Chestnut Hill, Boston, MA, USA.


The philosophy of Aristotle and its impact on the process of empirical scientific inquiry has been substantial. The influence of the clarity and orderliness of his thinking, when applied to the acquisition of knowledge in nursing, can not be overstated. Traditional empirical approaches have and will continue to have an important influence on the development of nursing knowledge through nursing research. However, as nursing is primarily a practice discipline, the transition from empirical and syllogistic reasoning is problematic. Other types of inquiry are essential in the application of nursing knowledge obtained by empirical scientific approaches and to understand how that knowledge can best be used in the care of patients. This paper reviews the strengths and limitations of syllogistic reasoning by applying it to a recently published study on temperature measurement in nursing. It then discusses possible ways that the empirical knowledge gained from that study and confirmed in its reasoning by logical analysis could be used in the daily care of critically ill patients. It concludes by highlighting the utility of broader approaches to knowledge development, including interpretative approaches and contemporary empiricism, as a way to bridge the gap between factual empirical knowledge and the practical application of that knowledge in everyday clinical nursing practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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