Research Paper: Roy Adaptation Theory Callista

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[. . .] Roy outlined innate and acquired coping processes (those a person is born with and those that they learn) which are "further categorized as the regulator and cognator subsystems" (Masters, 2011). Regulators are those physical subsystems which work with stimuli from inside and outside the person to produce an automatic response (Sitzman & Eichelberger, 2010). The cognator subsystem respond to both cognitive and emotional stimuli. The cognator and regulator subsystems are observable in four distinct adaptive modes: physiologic-physical, self-concept-group identity, role function, and interdependence modes. "It is through these four modes that responses to and interaction with the environment can be carried out and adaptation can be observed" (Masters, 2011).

Followed by the definitions of key components of there are certain assumptions that underlie the theory. The assumptions of the theory have one of three basic headings. Roy says that she assumes that her assumptions for the theory are philosophical, scientific and cultural. She believes that all three areas are needed for a holistic approach to healing. The assumptions are related in full in Masters (2011) and they are;

"philosophic -- persons have a mutual relationship with the world and a God- figure; human meaning is rooted in an omega point convergence with the universe; God is ultimately revealed in the diversity of His creation and is the common destiny of creation; persons use human creative abilities of awareness, enlightenment and faith; persons are accountable for entering the process of deriving, transforming, and sustaining the universe; scientific -- systems of matter and energy progress to higher levels of complex self-organization; consciousness and meaning are constitutive of person and environment integration; awareness of environment and self is rooted in thinking and feeling; human decisions are accountable for integration of creative processes; thinking and feeling mediate human action; system relationships include acceptance, protection, and fostering interdependence; persons and earth have common patterns and integral relations; person and environment transformations are created in human consciousness; integration of human environment meanings results in adaptation; cultural -- experiences within a specific culture will influence how each element of the Roy adaptation model is expressed; within a culture, there may be a concept that is central to the culture and will influence some or all the elements of the Roy adaptation model to a greater or lesser extent; cultural expression of the elements of the Roy adaptation model may lead to changes in practice activities such as nursing assessment; and, as Roy adaptation model elements evolve within a cultural perspective, implication for education and research may differ from the experiences in the original culture."

The most interesting of these may be the cultural implications which grant that as cultures change, the model will have to be adapted with it. When a person moves to a new setting, they will bring elements of their old culture with them, but they must, at least partially, adapt to the new culture. This means that they will still have the be subject to the assumptions of the model that philosophic and scientific (these, as can eb seen from the list) do not change, but they will adapt to the realities of the culture around themselves.


When thinking about the theory that Sister Roy devised it is necessary to understand that even she gives credit to many people whose ideas she borrowed in part to help her construct the basic ideas that she put together. This helps with the clarity and reliability of the theory. A person who goes out on their own and conducts research to prove a specific point can get lost in the hypothesis that they are trying to prove. Roy looked, early on (Meleis, 2007), at how sick people functioned and what was the root cause of the problem. Being a nun, and having a decided Christian perspective, she could have assumed that the adaptation could only truly occur if that person was able to acknowledge God. However, though she does mention spirituality as a necessary part of adaptation, she looks at the entire environment from culture to science to person and understands that it takes more than just the individual and their relationship with a God-concept to healthily adapt. She takes the disparate parts of that thought and makes it into a coherent/clear whole.

Unfortunately for the reader or the nurse who wishes to fully understand the theory, it is not simple. It is easy to argue that Roy's theory of adaptation is complex because people and their environment is complex. It seems at times that the theory is trying to do too much. Roy is able to explain the theory and make it relatively clear, but because of the complexity of the subject, it is not a simple explanation. There are other theories, from which Roy took pieces, that are simpler. Roy has tried to explain the entire concept, and it is sometimes bulky. However, that bulkiness also makes this a theory that is applicable in multiple situations.

The most important question is whether this theory is applicable and meaningful to nursing as a whole. This is a nursing theory and Sister Roy definitely included the nurse in the theory. It is both applicable and meaningful. The conjecture is that a person becomes ill because of poor adaptation to their environment. They come to the hospital or a doctor's office where the nurse, hopefully, becomes a part of the healing environment. In this way it is applicable. It is meaningful because the nurse has to understand all that goes into the healing process. Because adaptation to the environment and healing can be a complex process, the nurse needs to understand as much as possible about how they can be a part of assisting healing in every way.

Application of the Theory

This theory is so all-conclusive that it is easy to see how it can function regardless of personal thoughts. The fact that every element of the adaptation process was covered in the theory makes it easily adaptable to a personal paradigm. My particular worldview may not be exactly the same as Sister Roy's, but her theory does not say that the patient (or the nurse) has to agree with everything she believes in (e.g., and all-powerful God who is the only one who can create healing). Therefore, I can say that the theory does fit in with my worldview because it includes all of the elements that are needed in healing and spirituality is one.

A practicing nurse could use the concepts included in the theory to better understand where a particular patient is coming from. This means that the nurse who understands that the person has to use environmental, scientific and spiritual elements to affect healing will be better able to help in the healing process. The theory speaks about the mind-body link (Butts & Rich, 2010) and also about the holistic approach required that is secondary to therapies that doctors may order (Lampe, 2008), but is just as important in the process as any of the medication. This can be especially true in geriatric patients who do not have as much of the healing properties of person or the environment (family, community) left to them (Rogers & Keller, 2009).

An example of the theory being used in practice could be the nurse who sees a patient come into the hospital who is being poked and prodded, but looks like they are not understanding the process. The fear that they are facing is common among patients. The nurse, using the concepts from Roy's theory, could help the family to understand the condition by giving an honest assessment to other nurses, the doctor and the family. The nurse can also listen to what the patient is saying and try to alleviate some of the fear with humor, caring and other empathic elements (such as listening) which will help the patient to adapt (Peck, 2008).


The adaptation model suggested by Sister Callista Roy is an all-inclusive, thoughtful, and well-researched theory that is useful in the context of nursing practice (Ivanov & Blue, 2008). The most important aspect of the theory though may be the piece that most have trouble coming to grips with. There is a spiritual element to the balance that goes into adapting to change (Shores, 2010). However, what matters most is that this is a theory of nursing care that tries to encompass the entire human being. It is a holistic approach that understands that the mind and the body have an equally important role in the well-being of each person. It does not matter what scenario anyone wishes to name, this theory is largely applicable to all nursing questions regarding care. Since the patient is central to the nurses life, this theory, which regards the person's ability to adapt to the environment using all of the tools at their disposal, is useful and valuable to nursing practice.


Basavanthappa, B.T. (2007). Nursing theories. New Delhi: Japee Brothers Publishing.

Butts, J.B.,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Roy Adaptation Theory Callista.  (2011, March 16).  Retrieved May 26, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Roy Adaptation Theory Callista."  16 March 2011.  Web.  26 May 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Roy Adaptation Theory Callista."  March 16, 2011.  Accessed May 26, 2019.