Campus Community

Uncommon Care in Nursing

Written By Deborah Black, University Advancement

Uncommon Care in Nursing Feature Image

Seattle U’s College of Nursing alumni—many of whom are serving on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic—have long held a reputation for providing exceptional patient care. It’s not happenstance that their unique approach embodies the Jesuit ethos of “cura personalis,” or caring for the whole person. This culture of care shines through the Swanson Theory of Caring, developed by College of Nursing Dean Kristen M. Swanson, PhD, RN, FAAN.

“It’s certainly something we talk about right alongside social justice and critical thinking and so in a sense the theory is everywhere” Swanson says.

The Swanson Theory consists of five tenets: Knowing, Being With, Doing For, Enabling and Maintaining Belief.

  • The first tenet, Knowing, is striving to understand a person’s perception of an event and its impact on their life. This comprises compassion, communication, analysis, and empathy. Knowing enables a care recipient to feel understood.
  • The second tenet, Being With, means being emotionally present. This happens through active listening, reflective responses, sharing in a person’s joy and suffering and offering comfort. It enables a person to feel they matter.
  • The third tenet, Doing For, is doing for a person what they would do for themselves if they could. This involves anticipating the person’s needs, performing procedures that call upon the nurse’s education and experience, monitoring, managing pain and reassuring. Doing for makes the care recipient feel safe and comforted in the nurse’s hands.
  • The fourth tenet, Enabling, means facilitating a person’s passage through an event by providing them information, support, validation and affirmation. As a result, the person feels capable of getting through.
  • The final and most important tenet, Maintaining Belief, refers to continued belief in the care recipient’s ability to get through an experience and face a future with meaning, which could be a meaningful death. It is being with a person long enough that they retain a sense of hope regardless of what they are dealing with.

How do nurses express these tenets during a time of pandemic when hospitals are overwhelmed, stress levels are high and time is of the essence?

“There is nothing prescriptive about these acts of caring,” Swanson says. “How nurses deliver them becomes more expedited with experience, for example, you come to know the right questions to ask so a care recipient feels understood. With the coronavirus, a person may be unable to communicate. In this case, it comes down to a high commitment to social justice and doing right by every person who comes into your care, bringing your best confidence and compassion to every moment with a patient.”

Click here to read about Swanson’s collaborative caring for students at the outbreak of COVID-19 in Seattle.

Nursing Students-to-the-Frontlines: Support for the Clinical Performance Lab Fund

While the College of Nursing prepared to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Seattle University’s Clinical Performance Lab, a highly utilized site providing nursing students innovative hands-on learning experiences, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the lab’s closure. Nursing students have been shutout of clinical sites at hospitals, clinics and health care centers in the region. This crisis will greatly impact our soon-to-be nurses.

In response to limitations created by the pandemic, the College of Nursing has adopted the use of virtual simulation, investing in two platforms, both of which have been carefully peer-reviewed to assure accuracy and currently relevant clinical scenarios. Nursing students engage with virtual simulation for the entirety of spring quarter due to health risks of COVID-19 exposure, and limited personal protective equipment (PPE). College of Nursing leadership is also exploring options for additional faculty support to prepare intensive practice-based curriculum that will forward graduate education during this unprecedented time.

There is a cost associated with the college’s ability to pivot in preparing nurses to go into practice. Donor support will help us continue to provide state-of-the-art, world-class nurse education at this unprecedented time.

Please consider making a gift to the Clinical Performance Lab Fund to help us move our compassionate nursing students into practice on the frontlines, where they are needed now more than ever.

For more information on this effort, and other opportunities to support the College of Nursing, please contact Peggy Fine at