Swanson's middle range theory of caring

Nursing theories

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Swanson's (1991) middle range theory of caring

Kristen M Swanson


      ·         Caring is an important aspect of nursing.

      ·         Swanson's (1991) middle range theory of caring describes the  care of patients and family members.1

Key Concepts

·         Swanson's (1991) theory of caring was inductively derived and validated through phenomenological investigations in three separate perinatal contexts. Caring was described in Study I by 20 women who had recently miscarried, in Study II by 19 care providers in the newborn intensive care unit, and in Study III by 8 young mothers who had been the recipients of a long-term public health nursing intervention.

·         Healthcare professionals must act with compassion and caring in order to uphold patients' dignity, promote their wellbeing, and lessen their suffering.2

·         Five care processes are described in Swanson's caring theory: knowing, being with, acting for, enabling, and keeping belief. But these domains are intertwined and therefore not mutually exclusive. 2

·         Knowing is the “striving to understand an event as it has meaning in the life of the other”

·         ‘Being With’ in this theory refers to “being emotionally present to the other, striving to understand an event as it has meaning in the life of the other”. 1-3

·         ‘Doing For’ in this theory refers to “comforting, anticipating, protective of the other's needs and performed competently and skillfully”. 1-3

·         ‘Enabling’ in this theory refers to “facilitating the other's passage through life transitions and unfamiliar events” . 1-3

·         ‘Maintaining Belief’ refers to “sustaining faith in the other's capacity to get through an event or transition”. 1-3


·         Swanson's (1991) middle range theory of caring was developed to explain caring behaviors for patients and families.

·         The theory has implication in nursing research, education  and practice.


1. Swanson KM. Empirical development of a middle range theory of caring. Nurs Res. 1991 May-Jun;40(3):161-6. PMID: 2030995.

2. Mårtensson S, Hodges EA, Knutsson S, Hjelm C, Broström A, Swanson KM, Björk M. Caring Behavior Coding Scheme based on Swanson's Theory of Caring - development and testing among undergraduate nursing students. Scand J Caring Sci. 2021 Dec;35(4):1123-1133. doi: 10.1111/scs.12927. Epub 2020 Oct 30. PMID: 33124708; PMCID: PMC9291006.

3. McKelvey MM. Finding Meaning through Kristen Swanson’s Caring Behaviors: A Cornerstone of Healing for Nursing Education. Creative Nursing. 2018;24(1):6-11. doi:10.1891/1078-4535.24.1.6

This page was last updated on: 22/08/2023