Callista Roy, Creator of the Adaptation Model of Nursing

Callista Roy, Creator of the Adaptation Model of Nursing

Experienced nurses understand that every patient is different, and providing the best care requires adapting to each patient’s unique needs. That is the philosophy of Callista Roy, a living nursing legend who studied under Dorothy Johnson, another nurse pioneer and author of the Behavior System Model of Nursing.

A California native, Roy entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet in the late 1950s before going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles in 1963 and master’s degree in pediatric nursing from the University of California Los Angeles in 1966.

She continued her studies and earned another master’s degree and a doctorate in sociology thereafter. She worked as a staff nurse at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson, Arizona, and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lewiston, Idaho, before joining the faculty of her alma mater, Mount St. Mary’s. There, she served as chair of the department of nursing for 11 years.

Roy continued working in nursing education at universities and colleges around the country, including Boston College and at several international universities, where she was a visiting professor. In 1976, Roy developed a theory now known as the Roy Adaptation Model, which states that the goal of nursing care is to promote patient adaptation.

Her model asks questions about the person who is the focus of nursing care, the target of that care and when that care is indicated. Adaptation, she explained, occurs when people respond positively to environmental changes. The model says that people are bio-psycho-social beings that interact with changing environments. Health is a state and process of being and becoming integrated and whole. It is one of many dimensions of a person’s life, as is illness.

Lori Kerley, adjunct professor at American Sentinel University, says that Callista Roy’s work guides nursing practice today in many ways. “Her model for treating patients as complex individuals was ahead of its time and really laid the groundwork for holistic patient care,” she says. “Her theory is truly a basis of nursing practice around the world and used in all types of healthcare settings with all types of populations. She is worthy of celebration and remains a guiding force in the field of nursing, having just retired from Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing in 2017 after three decades there.”

Roy returned to her home state of California after her retirement. She has amassed many awards and honors, including being named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing (2007) and being inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame (2010).

Nurses today treat the whole patient, perhaps not realizing that this approach is commonplace today because of the creation of the Roy Adaptation Model. If you are excited to enhance your career as a nurse and follow in the footsteps of this visionary nurse and theorist, we invite you to explore our Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, which help nurses at all levels of their careers become well-rounded nurses who help patients improve their health—and their lives.

Visit us online or call 866.922.5690 to learn how more about American Sentinel’s BSN, MSN and DNP programs.


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