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Nursing Resources : Nursing Theory

What is a "Nursing Theory?"

Nursing Theories are theoretical visions stated by persons in the nursing field as philosophies expounding on the virtues of selected nursing models. More specifically, nursing theories comprise a body of knowledge that explains observable happenings and circumstances in a systematic method, and are derived through deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning, being applicable to the practice setting.

To oversimplify, it's a point A to point B to point C set of ideas and concepts that hold true as a constant and can be used to treat patients, describe and explain illnesses and their subsequent cures, predict facets of cause, reaction and outcome, and prescribe a healing course of action. Nursing theories can be viewed as the field establishing its professional boundaries as the main component of caring is impossible to measure. The theories also seek to define what it is that nurses know and do as a separate autonomous discipline that is only recently being granted its autonomy.

There are four levels of theory: Grand Theory, Metatheory, Middle Range Theory, and Practice Theory. Many other theories fall into these categories.

To read more of the four levels of Nursing Thories and "Sub-Theories" go to

Nursing Theories in Depth

To locate more information about specific nurisng theories online, go to:

Theories are listed alphbetically by theory name.

Nursing Theory in the Library Catalog

Search the Library Catalog (UW System search) for: keyword subject heading "Nursing Models,"  or "Models, Nursing" as a Medical Subject Heading.    
      (What's the difference?  MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) is the NLM controlled vocabulary thesaurus used for indexing articles for PubMed.  It is more precise search term than a keyword.)

Search the Library Catalog (UW System search) for the Medical Subject Heading "Nursing Theory"

There are many books and DVDs that discuss nursing theory.  For more specific information search the theory name in CINAHL.

Finding Theories in "CINAHL Headings"

Searching the phrase "nursing theory" within "CINAHL Headings" will give you a sense of vocabulary and the collection of literature available to you. By clicking on the CINAHL heading "Nursing Model" you will see a variety of potential theories to search. Clicking on any one of the sub-theories will reveal a list of individual theories, such as:

Nursing models, theoretical

Benner's Professional Advancement Model

Corbin and Strauss Chronic Illness Trajectory Framework

Cox Interaction Model of Client Health Behavior

Fitzpatrick Life Perspective

Gordon's Functional Health Patterns

Henderson Nursing Model

Johnson Behavioral System Model

King Open Systems Model

Leininger's Theory of Culture Care Diversity and Universality

Leventhal and Johnson's Theory of Self-Regulation

Levine Conservation Model

Marker Nursing Model

Mishel Uncertainty in Illness Theory

Neuman Systems Model

Newman Health Model

Nightingale's Nursing Theory

Orem Self-Care Model

Orlando's Theory of the Deliberative Nursing Process

Parse's Theory of Human Becoming

Paterson and Zderad's Theory of Humanistic Nursing

Pender Health Promotion Model

Peplau Interpersonal Relations Model

Rogers Science of Unitary Human Beings

Roper's Activities of Living Model

Roy Adaptation Model

Rubin's Theory of Maternal Identity

Synergy Model

Watson's Theory of Caring

Wiedenbach's Theory