Jean Watson, BS ’64, MS ’66, PhD ’73, AHN-C, FAAN
Pathfinder Award RecipientCollege of Nursing Marketing | College of Nursing Oct 31, 2014
Jean Watson, BS ’64, MS ’66, PhD ’73, AHN-C, FAAN, came to the University of Colorado in the early 1960s as a nurse pursuing her bachelor’s degree. She graduated 50 years ago in August. Watson moved quickly into a master’s program in psychiatric mental health nursing, graduating in 1966. She earned a graduate school certificate in social and clinical psychology, and a PhD in educational psychology and counseling in 1973.
Watson began teaching in the college in the early 1970s, progressing from faculty roles to undergraduate assistant dean, associate dean for graduate programs and finally dean. During her career she helped establish the school’s first doctoral program, a PhD in nursing, and in the late 1980s, the first clinical doctorate, the ND, which was the predecessor to today’s DNP program.
Committed to education and innovation, Dean Watson also ensured the initiation of the Center for Nursing Research (now the Center for Research and Nursing Scholarship) and collaborated with clinical partners to establish faculty research positions in those institutions. She also initiated a national model for collaboration between colleges and clinical institutions on the teaching of student nurses. Today we call this model the Clinical Scholars. Watson’s own research led to the development of the Theory of Human Caring and to the Center for Human Caring, as well as the Murchison-Scoville Endowed Chair in Caring Science at the college.
Watson’s theory and caritas processes are now used nationally and internationally by individual nurses and health care systems to improve self-care and patient care. Watson Caring Science Institute & International Caritas Consortium in Boulder, which she founded, provides caring and caritas education around the globe. In the last two years alone, Watson has presented abroad in Japan, Jordan, Italy, Australia, Malta, Turkey, Beirut, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
Watson has received 10 honorary doctorate degrees, including seven international doctorates and has authored or co-authored more than 20 books on caring, developed approximately 30 courses, published more than 100 scholarly articles on caring science, and presented at hundreds of conferences. While on faculty she received an International Fulbright Research Award and an International Kellogg Fellowship. She has received dozens of awards—among them the 2010 Holistic Nurse Award by the American Holistic Nursing Association, induction in the Colorado Nurses Association’s Hall of Fame, and a scholarship in her name from Sigma Theta Tau International Alpha Kappa Chapter.
Watson has received the Regents Medal from the University of Colorado and the Alumni of the Century Award from the CU College of Nursing. She is a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and, last year, was named one of their Living Legends, the highest honor in the nursing profession. Upon retirement, CU President Bruce Benson honored her with the designation of distinguished professor emerita and dean emerita.
Watson’s caring science theory and Caritas Processes™ have created pathways for nurses to care for themselves and their patients in more meaningful ways. She has pushed toward innovation in research and education for nurses during times when the profession was reluctant to change. For all the pathways she has forged during her career, the College of Nursing awarded her with the Alumni Association’s Pathfinder’s Award.
The Pathfinders Award honors nurses who have bettered the profession and patient care by forging pathways and overcoming barriers, or by creating pathways through the development of exemplary programs, theories or innovations. Throughout her career at the University of Colorado College of Nursing, Watson has done both.