Nursing theories are often based on and influenced by broadly applicable processes and theories. Following theories are basic to many nursing concepts.

A. General System Theory:

  • It describes how to break whole things into parts and then to learn how the parts work together in " systems".
  • These concepts may be applied to different kinds of systems, e.g.. Molecules in chemistry , cultures in sociology, organs in Anatomy and health in Nursing.

B. Adaptation Theory

  • It defines adaptation as the adjustment of living matter to other living things and to environmental conditions.
  • Adaptation is a continuously occurring process that effects change and involves interaction and response.

Human adaptation occurs on three levels:
--- the internal ( self )
--- the social (others)
--- and the physical ( biochemical reactions )

C. Developmental Theory

  • It outlines the process of growth and development of humans as orderly and predictable, beginning with conception and ending with death.
  • The progress and behaviors of an individual within each stage are unique.
  • The growth and development of an individual are influenced by heredity , temperament, emotional, and physical environment, life experiences and health status.

Four concepts common in nursing theory that influence and determine nursing practice are

  1. The person( patient)
  2. The environment
  3. Health
  4. Nursing (goals, roles, functions)

Each of these concepts is usually defined and described by a nursing theorist. Of the four concepts, the most important is that of the person. The focus of nursing is the person.


  1. Nightingale (1860): To facilitate "the body’s reparative processes" by manipulating client’s environment
  2. Paplau 1952: Nursing is; therapeutic interpersonal process.
  3. Henderson 1955: The needs often called Henderson’s 14 basic needs
  4. Abdellah 1960: This theory focus on delivering nursing care for the whole person to meet the physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs of the client and family.
  5. Orlando 1962: To Ida Orlando (1960), the client is an individual; with a need; that, when met, diminishes distress, increases adequacy, or enhances well-being.
  6. Johnson’s Theory 1968: Dorothy Johnson’s theory of nursing 1968 focuses on how the client adapts to illness and how actual or potential stress can affect the ability to adapt. The goal of nursing to reduce stress so that; the client can move more easily through recovery.
  7. Rogers 1970: to maintain and promote health, prevent illness, and care for and rehabilitate ill and disabled client through "humanistic science of nursing"
  8. Orem1971: This is self-care deficit theory. Nursing care becomes necessary when client is unable to fulfill biological, psychological, developmental, or social needs.
  9. King 1971: To use communication to help client reestablish positive adaptation to environment.
  10. Neuman 1972: Stress reduction is goal of system model of nursing practice.
  11. Roy 1979: This adaptation model is based on the physiological, psychological, sociological and dependence-independence adaptive modes.
  12. Watson’s Theory 1979: Watson’s philosophy of caring 1979 attempts to define the outcome of nursing activity in regard to the; humanistic aspects of life.

Depending on the generalisability of their principles

  1. Metatheory: the theory of theory. Identifies specific phenomena through abstract concepts.
  2. Grand theory: provides a conceptual framework under which the key concepts and principles of the discipline can be identified.
  3. Middle range theory: is more precise and only analyses a particular situation with a limited number of variables.
  4. Practice theory: explores one particular situation found in nursing. It identifies explicit goals and details how these goals will be achieved.

nursing theory

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