Dr. Callista Roy is a widely acclaimed nursing theorist as well as an educator, researcher,
speaker and author. She developed her Adaptation Model of Nursing while she was in
graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and a first
draft was published in Nursing Outlook in 1970. Over the years, she has continually
refined and updated the theory that is now a part of the associate to doctoral level
curricula in many nursing schools.
While at UCLA, Sister Callista Roy studied with Dr. Dorothy Johnson who had developed
the Behavior System Model of Nursing. Dr. Johnson urged Sister Roy to develop her
concept of adaptation and refine it into a theory to define the goal of nursing.
Roy's colleagues at Mount St. Mary's College were very supportive of her work. The
completed model, Introduction to Nursing: An Adaptation Model, was published in 1976
and has been updated numerous times. In 1991, she formed the Boston Based Adaptation
Research in Nursing Society (BBARNS) to further her work. It was later named the Roy
The adaptation model addresses the focus of nursing care, the target of nursing care
and the need for nursing care. Dr. Roy's viewpoint of the patient is holistic. She
states that patients are constantly adapting and the goal of nursing is to promote
that adaptation in both sickness and health.
- People are holistic beings.
- People are constantly interacting with their changing environment.
- People cope with changes by using inborn and learned coping skills that are biological, psychological and social.
- Health and illness are a part of everyone's life.
- To adapt, people must have positive responses to changes in their environment.
- Adaptation depends on people's adaptation levels and the stimuli to which they are exposed.
- Adaptation levels refer to the amount of stimulation that lead to positive responses.
- The four forms of adaptation are biologic, concept of self, role development and interaction with others.
- Nursing values other people's opinions and points of view. Interaction with others is an essential part of nursing.
- The ultimate goal of existence is to reach dignity and wholeness.
- People can be separated into parts for care and study.
- Nursing is based on cause and effect.
- Nursing needs to consider and respect a person's opinions and values.
- When a person adapts, he or she is free to respond to additional stimuli.
In the late 1990s, Dr. Roy revised her theory for the 21st century. She drew on her
knowledge of philosophy, spirituality and scientific research. She saw people as
defined by their physical and social environments and cited nursing scholars who
developed a discipline that served to enhance the well-being of people and the earth.
Dr. Roy used the term cosmic unity to show that people and the earth have common
characteristics. She feels that people are responsible for understanding, maintaining
and transforming the universe. These thoughts are contained in a 1997 publication
and also in the 1999 revision of her book that was co-authored by Dr. Heather Andrews.
Other changes in the 1999 edition included expanding adaptive criteria to include
groups as well as individuals and explaining adaptation on three levels of life processes.
The three process levels are integrated, compensatory and compromised. She also described
the structure for the development of nursing knowledge based on her theory and gave
examples of research that validated this framework.
Dr. Roy's nursing theory is constantly evolving. Her research interests at this time
are in the neuroscience field and are focused on cognitive problems of people with
mild head injuries. Her findings add to the broad base of nursing knowledge and outcomes
of nursing practice.
- Assessment of a patient's behavior
- Assessment of a patient's stimuli
- Nursing diagnosis
- Goal setting
- Nursing interventions to meet goals
Publications related to the Adaptation Model of Nursing
- Generating Middle Range Theory: From Evidence to Practice
- Nursing Knowledge Development and Clinical Practice: Opportunities and Directions
- Conceptual Models for Nursing Practice
- Essentials of the Roy Adaptation Model
- Theoretical Basis for Nursing, Third Edition
- Understanding The Work Of Nurse Theorists: A Creative Beginning (Sitzman, Understanding the Work of Nursing Theorists)
- Nursing Theories and Nursing Practice
- Barone, S., Roy, C., and Frederickson, K. Instruments Used in Roy Adaptation Model Based Research: Review, Critique and Further Directions, Nursing Science Quarterly, 2008
- Roy, Callista. Update from the Future: Thinking of Theorist Callista Roy, Nursing Science Quarterly, 2007
- Roy, Callista. Thoughts from a Theorist, Roy Adaptation Review, 2007
- Magee, T. and Roy, C. Predicting School Age Behavior Problems: The Role of Early Childhood Risk Factors, Pediatric Nursing, 2008
- Whittemore, R. & Roy, C. Adapting to Diabetes Mellitus: A Theory Synthesis. Nursing Science Quarterly, 2002