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Caring, Part of Survival

Written by kimmel52

Nursing is an art and a science. The nurse uses a scientific process to determine a client’s immediate and long range needs, in order to help the client achieve a higher level of psychological and physiological wellness. Norwood (1999) proposes that Maslow’s hierarchy can be used to describe the kinds of information that individual’s seek at different levels. For example, individuals at the lowest level seek coping information in order to meet their basic needs. Information that is not directly connected to helping a person meet his or her needs in a very short time span is simply left unattended. Individuals at the safety level need helping information. They seek to be assisted in seeing how they can be safe and secure.This process is also termed the nursing process. It consists of the following elements, Assessment, Diagnosis, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation. It is within the application of the nursing process that the nurse incorporates attending to and ensuring that the client’s hierarchies of human needs are met.

These needs, according to Abraham Maslow (1954) consist of the following:

1) Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc.
2) Safety/security: out of danger
3) Belonging and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted
4) Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval and recognition.
Theory can be defined as “an internally consistent group of relational statements (concepts, definitions and propositions) that present a systematic view about a phenomenon and which is useful for description, explanation, prediction and control” (Bodie & Chitty, 1993).

Nursing theories are used to describe, develop, disseminate, and use present knowledge in nursing.
The theme that encompasses Maslow’s entire theory, is based on the premise that people are thinking, feeling, emotional beings in need of not only the basics for survival but also the need for love and belonging. Love and belonging are synonymous with caring, and therefore, caring, is part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In the nursing profession, caring is the most integral part of practice, for without it, the moral code by which the nurse is guided becomes flawed. The nurse is guided by moral principles in establishing the nurse client relationship.

These moral principles include, Autonomy, Nonmaleficence, Beneficence, Justice, Fidelity, and Veracity. Caring, is then essential for Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to be satisfied. The premise of this argument, is the following; “that caring takes precedence over the basic elements of hierarchal needs, such as food, shelter, and protection.” This statement indicates that caring has more importance than the other needs for survival as mentioned above.

If one were to make the argument, that, caring is the central theme for survival of the human species, then, based on Maslow’s theory, it could be also extrapolated that caring was universal to survival. It could be argued, that the basic necessities such as food, shelter, and safety are independent of caring. Since these concepts of needs are part of Maslow’s theory, then the action of caring would not be central to the overall theme, thus disproving caring as the central theme to human survival. In proof of this hypothesis, it could be argued that in the penal system, prisoners are provided with only the basic of necessities and nothing else. For this hypothesis to be correct, the survival rate of inmates would have to be approximately the same as those of their non- incarcerated counterparts that live free in society.

If in fact the survival rates are the same, then the theory of caring would be disproved as a necessity to the survival of the human species and thus only the basic necessities were in fact the only factors needed. On the other hand, if the survival rate for those who are incarcerated is less than those who are free in society, bearing that other variables such as genetics, living environment, and family dynamics are taken into consideration, then the concept of caring would have some validity relating to Maslow’s theory. It can be seen in nature, within certain mammalian species such as the chimpanzee, that if only the basic needs for survival are provided to an infant chimp without the benefit of a mother chimp, the infant chimp’s chances of survival decrease dramatically.

The infant chimp, will in most cases, fail to thrive without the mother chimp, or develop an aggressive and violent nature. The term, “failure to thrive” can also be applied to the human species. Children, who are provided with the basics for life but deprived of caring will display such signs and symptoms such as emotional affect, blank stares, muscle wasting, inability to bond, and a general lethargy. These symptoms, would indicate that the basics for survival are not sufficient for a child to maintain survival. Therefore, the argument can be made that caring, takes precedence over and above the other essential elements for survival, such as food, shelter, protection, because even with those elements, failure to thrive will ensue. . Below is an excerpt from a conversation with the late Dr. Jane Goodall, renowned scientist and animal rights activist of chimpanzees. She describes the living conditions of the chimps in captivity for experimentation.

Goodall: One of the very worst is just outside Washington, D.C., a lab called S.E.M.A. When I visited there in March of 1987, I saw pairs of three-year-old chimps crammed into cages measuring twenty-two inches by twenty-two inches and two feet high. Each cage was pushed into something that looked like a microwave oven with a little panel of glass at the top. The only contact with the outside world was through a vent with air roaring in. It was so dark in those cages that the technicians had to use flashlights to see what the chimps were doing.

Those pairs of chimps weren’t even being used in medical research. They were just waiting in quarantine, stacked up one on top of the other. Since my visit the metal chambers have gone, but the cages are the same. After quarantine the chimps are caged singly, denied contact with a companion.

What happens to chimps in these conditions? Exactly what you would find if human children were put in those conditions. They become psychotic, they rock back and forth, they give up, they show despair. A preverbal human child and a young chimpanzee have just about the same intellectual ability and share the same emotional needs for affection, reassurance, love, and contact.

We would not treat our most hardened criminals this way, yet these chimpanzees are innocent of any crime. That man who has just killed half his family and slit his little girl’s throat–do you think he’s sitting in a cage this size? If we stand by and allow this sort of thing to happen, we make a mockery of justice.”

This conversation was originally published in the Spring 1990 issue of Orion. To order a copy of this issue, please visit The Orion Society Marketplace, call (413) 528-4422, write The Orion Society, 195 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230

Within the context of the above conversation Dr. Goodall makes the observation that a human child and a chimpanzee have similar intellectual ability and needs for emotional affection, reassurance, love and contact, or caring. Dr. Goodall, infers from her observation and statements, that caring is an emotion that brings forth actions in relation to the one that is cared for, that will enable the human or chimpanzee to live in contentment.

She eludes, that caring is essential for the survival of the species, and that lack of which results in a detrimental influence on the species. One could argue, that in the wild, within the jungles where chimpanzees live, the term caring is no longer valid. But one only has to further research the life of a chimpanzee to see that there is order, respect, and caring for the tribal group. With that said, how much more can a nurse influence their clients life and health in a positive manner, with long reaching effects, toward emotional, psychological and physical wellness all with the emotion and actions of caring. Perhaps the hierarchy of needs, that Maslow’s first postulated, should be reversed to include as the first and most important need, that of caring. For with caring flows out all of the other necessities toward achievement of balance and harmony of the individual.

More articles and resources on nursing education can be found at www.theNETstudyguide.com.

References
– Citation: Huitt, W. (2004). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date] from, http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/regsys/maslow.html.
– The Orion Society Marketplace, call (413) 528-4422, write The Orion Society, 195 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230
– Blais, Kathleen Koenig, Hayes, Janice S., Kozier, Barbara, Erb, Glenora. Professional Nursing Practice, fourth edition., Co., 2002, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey
– Citation: Huitt, W. (2004). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date] from, http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/regsys/maslow.html.

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