Patient Safety / Quality

Quantum nursing II: Our “field” of influence

In 1979, I wrote “What is nursing? What is the role of the nurse? What is it that makes a nurse a nurse? Is it indeed the functions that we perform? How is it then that…we perform radically different functions, and yet each of us claims the title ‘nurse’?…

Could it be that…these nurses are actualizing different possibilities within nursing?” At the time, I answered these questions by suggesting, “Nursing can and should be distinguished by its philosophy of care….

Nurses themselves must formulate this philosophy and when they do, they transcend any particular function of nursing only to realize a more developed concept—a concept that embraces and unifies the experience of all nurses.”

What I was describing then, although I didn’t know it, was the quantum concept of a matrix or field. In a quantum view, particles aren’t isolated in empty space but embedded in a matrix that connects everything.

A matrix or field is that invisible, intangible, inaudible, tasteless, and odorless something that connects everything together. The “nursing field” unifies nurses’ experience—and potential.

Quantum Field Theory is the mathematical and conceptual framework for contemporary particle physics—the best starting point for analyzing the fundamental features of matter and interactions. It’s the “how” through which we are able to affect others. So, let’s start analyzing “our” field and its possibilities.

In a previous column, I discussed Jill Bolte Taylor’s experience of health professionals as “concentrated packages of energy” or, even better, “conglomerations of powerful beams of energy.” And I noted that physicist David Bohm described human beings as “intentionally directed energy.” What I didn’t say was that this energy is permeable, capable of moving, changing itself, and changing (influencing) other particles of energy.

Physics today teaches that thoughts are energy and that this energy can influence or change what we call the material world, including one another. Science also has demonstrated that this ability to influence others can be developed and enhanced, focused and directed. This focused intention—mental energy—can and does influence others. The problems are: (1) most people don’t know or believe they can effect such change; (2) most people focus or concentrate for only 6 to 10 seconds, and focused intention takes longer than that—perhaps as much as 15 minutes; (3) therefore, most people don’t try—or if they do, they give up too soon.

In her book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Bolte Taylor suggests each of us must be accountable for the energy we bring to the patient’s bedside. Can you imagine the difference in the quality of the nursing we would practice if we actually focused our intention (mental energy) completely on a particular patient for the entire 15 or 20 minutes we actually spend with that patient? What a difference it would make!

Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h), FAAN
Executive Editor, Professional Outreach
American Nurse Today

Selected references

Curtin LL. The nurse as advocate: a philosophical foundation for nursing. ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 1979 (April);1(3):1-10.

Curtin LL. Quantum nursing. Am Nurs Today. 2010;5(9):47-48.

Quantum Field Theory. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2006. Accessed November 19, 2010.

Rebman JM, Wezelman R, Radin DI, Hapke RA, Gaughan K. Remote influence of the autonomic nervous system by focused intention. Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine. 1996;6:111-134.

Taylor JB. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. New York, NY: Viking Press; 2007.

Watt C, Ravenscroft J, McDermott Z. Exploring the limits of direct mental influence: two studies comparing “blocking” and “co-operating” strategies. Journal of Scientific Exploration. 1999;13(3):515-535.

Dr. Leah Curtin, RN, ScD (h), FAAN, is Executive Editor, Professional Outreach, American Nurse Today. An internationally recognized nurse leader, ethicist, speaker, and consultant, she is a strong advocate for both the nursing profession and high-quality patient care. Currently she is Clinical Professor of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and Health. For over 20 years, she was the Editor-in-Chief of Nursing Management. In 2007, she was appointed to the Standards and Appeals Board of DNV Healthcare, a new Medicare accrediting authority. Dr. Curtin can be reached at

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