Interpreting nursing metatheory through Complexity Integration Nursing Theory: A scoping review




Van Sell, Sharon

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Graphy Publications


Aim: The aim of the scoping review for the interpreting nursing metatheory study was to determine the presence or absence of metatheory in the nursing literature, to interpret nursing metatheory, and to determine if the Complexity Integration Nursing Theory is the primary metatheory for unifying the profession of nursing.

Methods: Conducted a systematic interpretive scoping review using a modified Arksey and O’Malley framework involving 13 databases, gray literature, secondary sources of nursing theory textbooks, and six subjectively selected interdisciplinary metatheorieswith application to nursing published between 1987 and 2012 with nursing applications published within one year or up to 11 years. Evaluated identified nursing metatheories using the nine questions for interpreting nursing metatheory.

Results: The interpreting nursing metatheory study retrieved seven nursing metatheories through electronic database searches, nursing theory textbooks, interdisciplinary metatheories, and gray literature; that met inclusion criteria for using the nine questions of interpreting nursing metatheory. One nursing metatheory, the Complexity Integration Nursing Theory, met all nine questions and acknowledged all nursing theories past, present, and future, and focused on the individual nurse regardless of nursing practice domain; one nursing metatheory met eight, one met seven, one met six, one met four, and two met three out of nine questions.

Conclusion: The interpreting nursing metatheory scoping review provides an important high-level synthesis of nursing metatheory research, confirms the absence of nursing metatheory in primary and secondary nursing literature, and highlights the overall need for increased sophisticated methodological approaches to metatheory research in nursing especially with the trend towards interdisciplinary metatheory. The Complexity Integration Nursing Theory was the only nursing metatheory meeting all of the interpreting nursing metatheory questions and is the primary metatheory for unifying the profession of nursing.


Article originally published in International Journal of Nursing & Clinical Practices, 4(1). English. Published Online 2018.


Nursing metatheory, Complexity Integration Nursing Theory, Nursing literature


This is the publisher’s version of an article that is available at Recommended citation: Sell, S. (2017). Interpreting nursing metatheory through complexity integration nursing theory: A scoping review. International Journal of Nursing & Clinical Practices, 4(1). This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.