Sister Callista Roy is a dynamic nursing theorist who developed the Adaptation Model
of Nursing. It is considered to be a mid-range theory that has the goal of supporting
the overall health of patients.
Lorraine Callista Roy was born on October 14, 1939, in Los Angeles, California. She
was named after Saint Callistus, an early Christian martyr whose name was on the
Roman Catholic Calendar the day she was born. Callista was the second child in a
family of seven boys and seven girls. When she was born, her parents, Wilfred and
Perth Irene Hemenway Roy, were living with her grandparents in a multigenerational
household of ten. She was raised in a family with strong Catholic ties. Her father
was a truck driver and her mother was a licensed vocational nurse. Her mother taught
her the importance of caring for people and influenced her choice of career. She also
gives credit to her excellent teachers in parochial schools, high school and college.
At the age of 14, Callista began working in the kitchen at a local hospital and then
became a nursing assistant. After she graduated from high school, she decided to join
the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet.
Education and Career
In 1963, Sister Callista earned a Bachelor of Arts in Nursing (BAN) from Mount St.
Mary's College in Los Angeles. After working as a staff nurse at St. Mary's Hospital
in Tucson, Arizona, and as an administrator at St. Joseph's Hospital in Lewiston,
Idaho, she entered the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and earned a
master's degree in pediatric nursing in 1966. She then returned to Mount St. Mary's
Hospital as a member of the faculty, teaching both pediatric and maternity nursing.
Shortly after this, she developed encephalomyelitis and was bedridden. She was forced
to take a leave of absence, but returned to work in 1968. A number of years later she
would have an acoustic neuroma removed.
It was during these early years at Mount St. Mary's that Roy began developing her
adaptive theory. She organized her course work around her view of persons and families
as adaptive systems and developed an integrated nursing curriculum. In 1970, St. Mary's
College adopted her model as part of the teaching curriculum. She was appointed as
chair of the nursing department in 1971 and remained in that position until 1982. In
1973, she earned a second master's degree from UCLA in sociology and in 1977, a Ph.D.
in sociology from UCLA. She then took postdoctoral studies in neuroscience nursing at
the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Her interest in this field was
prompted by her own experiences with neurological diseases, and she wanted to expand
her knowledge of the holistic person as an adaptive system.
By 1981, her model of nursing practice was well known, and Dr. Roy and her colleagues
consulted with at least 30 other schools to teach them how to use the model in their
associate to doctoral level nursing program curricula. During this time, Dr. Roy also
helped develop a master's of science program in nursing at the University of Portland
in Oregon. She was in demand as a speaker and spoke throughout the world about her
model for nursing.
After postdoctoral studies in neuroscience nursing at the University of California,
San Francisco (UCSF), she began teaching graduate nursing theory courses at both
UCSF and the William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College. Her interest
in this field was prompted by her own experiences with neurological diseases, and
she wanted to expand her knowledge of the holistic person as an adaptive system. In
1987, she accepted a position at Boston College to help develop a Ph.D. program in
nursing. She also was given a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award from the Australian-American
Educational Foundation that allowed her to travel to Australia in 1988.
In addition to her teaching, Dr. Roy is continually refining and updating her model
for nursing and is active in neuroscience research projects. Her latest research
focuses on nursing interventions for those who have suffered mild head injuries.
She has co-chaired Knowledge Conferences that are hosted by Boston College School
of Nursing. She served on the Board of the International Network for Doctoral Education
from 2003 to 2006.
Honors and Awards
Throughout her long career, Dr. Roy has received many honors. A partial list includes
honorary doctorates from four universities, the National League for Nursing Martha
Rogers Award for advancing nursing science and the Sigma Theta Tau International
Founders Award for advancing professional practice. In 2007, she received the American
Academy of Nursing Living Legend Award.
Callista Roy's theory builds on patients' adaptive abilities and its goals promote
measures that contribute to quality of life. She has spent her life in the service
of others and has elevated the practice of nursing to a science that can be measured
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