Roy's Adaptation Model

Nursing theories

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Roy's Adaptation Model


  • Sr.Callista Roy- nurse theorist, writer, lecturer, researcher and teacher
  • Professor and Nurse Theorist at the Boston College of Nursing in Chestnut Hill
  • Born at Los Angeles on October 14, 1939.
  • Bachelor of Arts with a major in nursing - Mount St. Mary's College, Los Angeles in 1963.
  • Master's degree program in pediatric nursing - University of California ,Los Angeles in 1966.
  • Master’s and PhD in Sociology in 1973 and 1977.
  • Worked with Dorothy E. Johnson
  • Worked as f faculty of Mount St. Mary's College in 1966.
  • Organized course content according to a view of person and family as adaptive systems.
  • RAM as a basis of curriculum i at Mount St. Mary’s College
  • 1970-The model was implemented in Mount St. Mary’s school
  • 1971- she was made chair of the nursing department at the college.

Assumptions (Roy 1989; Roy and Andrews 1991)

Explicit assumptions
  • The person is a bio-psycho-social being.
  • The person is in constant interaction with a changing environment.
  • To cope with a changing world, person uses both innate and acquired mechanisms which are biological, psychological and social in origin.
  • Health and illness are inevitable dimensions of the person’s life.
  • To respond positively to environmental changes, the person must adapt.
  • The person’s adaptation is a function of the stimulus he is exposed to and his adaptation level
  • The person’s adaptation level is such that it comprises a zone indicating the range of stimulation that will lead to a positive response.
  • The person has 4 modes of adaptation: physiologic needs, self- concept, role function and inter-dependence.
  • "Nursing accepts the humanistic approach of valuing other persons’ opinions, and view points" Interpersonal relations are an integral part of nursing
  • There is a dynamic objective for existence with ultimate goal of achieving dignity and integrity.
Implicit assumptions
  • A person can be reduced to parts for study and care.
  • Nursing is based on causality.
  • Patient’s values and opinions are to be considered and respected.
  • A state of adaptation frees an individual’s energy to respond to other stimuli.

Major Concepts

  • Adaptation -- goal of nursing
  • Person -- adaptive system
  • Environment -- stimuli
  • Health -- outcome of adaptation
  • Nursing- promoting adaptation and health
  • Responding positively to environmental changes.
  • The process and outcome of individuals and groups who use conscious awareness, self reflection and choice to create human and environmental integration
  • Bio-psycho-social being in constant interaction with a changing environment
  • Uses innate and acquired mechanisms to adapt
  • An adaptive system described as a whole comprised of parts
  • Functions as a unity for some purpose
  • Includes people as individuals or in groups-families, organizations, communities, and society as a whole.
  • Focal - internal or external and immediately confronting the person
  • Contextual- all stimuli present in the situation that contribute to effect of focal stimulus
  • Residual-a factor whose effects in the current situation are unclear
  • All conditions, circumstances, and influences surrounding and affecting the development and behavior of persons and groups with particular consideration of mutuality of person and earth resources, including focal, contextual and residual stimuli
  • Inevitable dimension of person's life
  • Represented by a health-illness continuum
  • A state and a process of being and becoming integrated and whole
  • To promote adaptation in the four adaptive modes
  • To promote adaptation for individuals and groups in the four adaptive modes, thus contributing to health, quality of life, and dying with dignity by assessing behaviors and factors that influence adaptive abilities and by intervening to enhance environmental interactions
  • Cognator subsystem — A major coping process involving 4 cognitive-emotive channels: perceptual and information processing, learning, judgment and emotion.
  • Regulator subsystem — a basic type of adaptive process that responds automatically through neural, chemical, and endocrine coping channels
  • Derived Four Adaptive Modes
  • 500 Samples of Patient Behavior
  • What was the patient doing?
  • What did the patient look like when needing nursing care?

Four Adaptive Modes

  • Physiologic Needs
  • Self Concept
  • Role Function
  • Interdependence


Philosophical Assumptions
  • Persons have mutual relationships with the world and God
  • Human meaning is rooted in an omega point convergence of the universe
  • God is intimately revealed in the diversity of creation and is the common destiny of creation
  • Persons use human creative abilities of awareness, enlightenment, and faith
  • Persons are accountable for the processes of deriving, sustaining, and transforming the universe
Adaptation and Groups
  • Includes relating persons, partners, families, organizations, communities, nations, and society as a whole
Adaptive Modes

A. Persons

  • Physiologic
  • Self Concept
  • Role Function
  • Interdependence

B.  Groups

  • Physical
  • Group Identity
  • Role Function
  • Interdependence
Role Function Mode
  • Underlying Need of Social integrity
  • The need to know who one is in relation to others so that one can act
  • The need for role clarity of all participants in group

Adaptation Level

  • A zone within which stimulation will lead to a positive or adaptive response
  • Adaptive mode processes described on three levels:
  • Integrated
  • Compensatory
  • Compromised
Integrated Life Processes
  • Adaptation level where the structures and functions of the life processes work to meet needs
  • Examples of Integrated Adaptation
  • Stable process of breathing and ventilation
  • Effective processes for moral-ethical-spiritual growth
Compensatory Processes
  • Adaptation level where the cognator and regulator are activated by a challenge to the life processes
  • Compensatory Adaptation Examples:
  • Grieving as a growth process, higher levels of adaptation and transcendence
  • Role transition, growth in a new role
Compromised Processes
  • Adaptation level resulting from inadequate integrated and compensatory life processes
  • Adaptation problem
  • Compromised Adaptation Examples
  • Hypoxia
  • Unresolved Loss
  • Stigma
  • Abusive Relationships


  • RAM offers guidelines to nurse in developing the nursing process.
  • The elements :
  • First level assessment
  • Second level assessment
  • Diagnosis
  • Goal setting
  • Intervention
  • evaluation

Usefulness of Adaptation Model

  • Scientific knowledge for practice
  • Clinical assessment and intervention
  • Research variables
  • To guide nursing practice
  • To organize nursing education
  • Curricular frame work for various nursing colleges

Characteristics of the theory

  • interrelated
  • logical in nature
  • relatively simple yet generalizable
  • can be the basis for the hypotheses that can be tested
  • contribute to and assist in increasing the general body of knowledge of a discipline
  • can be utilized by the practitioners to guide and improve their practice
  • consistent with other validated theories, laws and principles
  • Testable

Research studies using RAM

  • Middle range theories have been derived from RAM
  • 1998-Ducharme et al described a longitudinal model of psychosocial determinants of adaptation
  • 1998-Levesque et al presented a MRT of psychological adaptation
  • 1999-A MRNT , the urine control theory by Jirovec et al
  • Dunn, H.C. and Dunn, D. G. (1997). The Roy Adaptation Model and its application to clinical nursing practice. Journal of Ophthalmic Nursing and Technology. 6(2), 74-78.
  • Samarel, N., Fawcett, J., Krippendorf, K., Piacentino, J.C., Eliasof, B., Hughes, P., Kowitski, C., and Ziegler, E. (1998). Women's perception of group support and adaptation to breast cancer. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 28(6), 1259-1268.
  • Chiou, C. (2000). A meta-analysis of the interrelationships between the modes in Roy's adaptation model. Nursing Science Quarterly. 13(3), 252-258
  • Yeh, C. H. (2001). Adaptation in children with cancer: research with Roy's model. Nursing Science Quarterly. 14, 141-148.
  • Zhan, L. (2000). Cognitive adaptation and self-consistency in hearing-impaired older persons: testing Roy's adaptation model. Nursing Science Quarterly. 13(2), 158-165.


  • 5 elements - person, goal of nursing, nursing activities, health and environment
  • Persons are viewed as living adaptive systems whose behaviours may be classified as adaptive responses or ineffective responses.
  • These behaviors are derived from regulator and cognator mechanisms.
  • These mechanisms work with in 4 adaptive modes.
  • The goal of nursing is to promote adaptive responses in relation to 4 adaptive modes, using information about person’s adaptation level, and various stimuli.
  • Nursing activities involve manipulation of these stimuli to promote adaptive responses.
  • Health is a process of becoming integrated and able to meet goals of survival, growth, reproduction, and mastery.
  • The environment consists of person’s internal and external stimuli.


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  • Wills M.Evelyn, McEwen Melanie (2002). Theoretical Basis for Nursing Philadelphia. Lippincott Williams& wilkins.
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  • Vandemark L.M. Awareness of self & expanding consciousness: using Nursing theories to prepare nurse –therapists Ment Health Nurs. 2006 Jul; 27(6) : 605-15
  • Reed PG, The force of nursing theory guided- practice. Nurs Sci Q. 2006 Jul;19(3):225

This page was last updated on: 03/12/2020