Katie Eriksson’s theory of caritative caring

  1. Zorina, PhD student in Nursing Science, NCJSC Karaganda Medical University, Kazakhstan
  2. Korzhina, PhD student in Nursing Science, Åbo Akademi University, Finland
  3. Vaartio-Rajalin, Professor in gerontological care (tenure track), docent, Åbo Akademi University, Finland



Aim: The aim of this essay is to describe the Katie Eriksson´s theory of caritative caring and reflect it in relation to nursing care, education, research and leadership.

Methods: a theoretical-reflective essay, conducted in a dialectical process between relevant literature, theoretical framework and reflection.

Results: Eriksson´s theory of caritative caring philosophical in nature. Eriksson had her goal in defining the philosophical and theoretical foundation of care, without which the good patient care (to ensure the integrity, independence and development of the individual) is impossible. The theory has been successfully employed in various activities such as nursing education, clinical nursing settings, nursing management, and in nursing research.

Keywords: Eriksson´s caritative theory, Caring, Nursing theory



Nursing research evidence, ethics and theories are to be applied into nursing processes in order to provide the best possible care to individuals in different contexts, life situations and health challenges. In this essay, a caring theory of Katie Eriksson is described and reflected in relation to nursing care, education, research and leadership.


The theory of caritative caring was developed by Katie Eriksson (1943-2019) since the mid-1970s. In that process, Eriksson was inspired by the works of f.eg. Plato and Aristotle, and identified the fundamental aspects of the caritative theory as caritas, love and mercy [1]. The ultimate goal of caring is to alleviate suffering in a spirit of faith, hope and love and thereby enhance dignity.

In her theory Eriksson identifies four concepts. Caritas, the original idea of unconditional human love, is a basic motive in true caring. Caring for the patient is manifested in a will to mediate faith, hope and love, with help of tending, playing and learning [2]. The characteristics of tending are warmth, closeness and touch. Learning is directly related to the development of independence, self-realization and maturity, and teaching opens up new opportunities for these. Play, then, as natural behavior is associated with the development of trust, joy and relaxation in social situations, contributing to the development of the human personality. In professional work a nurse needs to communicate warmth, respect, honesty, patience and an inner desire to care for the patient, and this caring communication brings patient and nurse together, giving care its´ fundamental meaning.

Another concepts used in Eriksson’s theory is ethos, defined as the essence of the concept of caritas. Ethical caring is what a nurse makes explicit through her approach and what she does for the patient in practice: showing respect for the patient and recognizing his or her absolute dignity. This demonstrates the nurse’s willingness to sacrifice something for someone else, being called upon to serve a specific task [3].

The concept of health is described as a measure of human unity, not a permanent well-being. Thus the health includes a certain physical condition of the body, but also a feeling of bodily, mental and spiritual well-being. In other words, the person to be cared for is the essence of body, soul and spirit, an unique being [4]. A person’s attitude towards other people is a prerequisite for spiritual and mental health. Human suffering, then, is described as the ongoing struggle of a human being between good and evil; an inextricable process of its´ connection with the disease, care and life of the patient. To care for another is to share with the other the difficulties and problems that are not always associated with gaining health [5, 6].

In Erikssons´s theory, the concept of environment is replaced with a term caring culture, which implies to cultural elements of the caring reality with its traditions, rituals and basic values. Respect for human being´s dignity and holiness forms the base of caring culture [1]. Eriksson also refers to the patient’s external environment as “living space”, i.e. external factors and actual boundaries (physical, psychosocial and spiritual) for the potential of a person and her health.

 Eriksson’s research and development of caritative science resulted in a separate field of caritative science at the Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies at Abo Akademi University in 1987. Within that, Eriksson also developed the foundations for the education of Master’s and Doctoral programs to conduct research in the field of caring science, under her supervision, and her caritative theory was also integrated into the educational process of teaching nursing professionals. As a result of introduction to the Eriksson’s theory within clinical practice, nurses in the Nordic countries organized a philosophy and practice of caritative patient care, applying theory also to documentation. The theory has been applied into various clinical areas, f.eg. in emergency, psychiatric and preventive care. Eriksson’s research is reflected also in the nursing workforce management process and in nursing leadership [1].


Katie Eriksson’s caring theory is philosophical in nature. Eriksson had her goal in defining the philosophical and theoretical foundation of care, without which the good patient care (to ensure the integrity, independence and development of the individual) is impossible.


  1. Alligood MR. 2018. Nursing Theorists and Their Work. 9th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
  2. Lindström UÅ, Nyström LL, Zetterlund JE. Katie Eriksson. Theory of caritative caring. In: Nursing Theorists and Their work. 9th ed. ( MR Alligood ed), 2018, Elsevier – Health Sciences Division, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, 448– 461.
  3. Näsman Y. 2020. The theory of caritative caring: Katie Eriksson’s theory of caritative caring presented from a human science point of view. Nurs Philos 21(4):e12321. doi: 10.1111/nup.12321.
  4. Fagerström LM, Hemberg J, Koskinen C, Östman L, Näsman Y, Nyholm L, Santamäki Fischer R. 2020. The core of Katie Eriksson’s caritative caring theory – a qualitative study from a postdoctoral perspective. Scand J Caring Sci 35(4), 1240-1249. doi: 10.1111/scs.12942. Epub ahead of print.
  5. Hemberg J, Nyqvist F, Näsman M. 2019. “Homeless in life” – loneliness experienced as existential suffering by older adults living at home: a caring science perspective. Scand J Caring Sci 33(2), 446-456. doi: 10.1111/scs.12642.
  6. Bergbom I, Nåden D, Nyström L. 2021. Katie Eriksson’s caring theories. Part 1. The caritative caring theory, the multidimensional health theory and the theory of human suffering. Scand J Caring Sci Oct 5th doi: 10.1111/scs.13036. Epub ahead of print.