80+ Nursing Theories and Models – Definitions and List| Nursing Study Guide

Nursing theories consist of coherent groups of broad propositions used as fundamental principles of explanation, are derived from existing conceptual frameworks, and are classified based on scope and purpose. Here’s a Summary of nursing theories and models commonly applied in contemporary practice.

Summary of Nursing Theories

Key Definitions 

Philosophy of Science in Nursing: “examination of nursing concepts, theories, laws, and aims as they relate to nursing practice. 

Concept: a word or phrase that captures the essence of something; definition or description of the concept is one proposition; the building blocks of theory; Image or symbolic representation of an abstract idea: for example cup, chair, rain, intelligence, presence, caring, pain, weight, self-concept, self-esteem(Summary of nursing theories essay)


Conceptual definition: general meaning based on the theory— similar to a dictionary definition. These are important so that you can compare the results of other studies of the same concept. If the definitions of the concept differ from study to study, there is no quantitative way to summarize the data regarding that concept.

Operational definition: defines the specific direction of how a concept is measured. How a concept is measured in the study may be indicated by the words as evidenced by or as measured by

Conceptual model: Very abstract and general works that lead to theory development and can guide research and practice; enable nurses to view the world from a unique perspective. Diagrams typically used to show theme and link concepts through symbols. 

Praxis: “The planned, deliberate, and thoughtful creation of a plan of action to achieve a set goal” (Polifroni, 2015, p. 11). Practice, action, or practical application of theory. (Summary of nursing theories essay)

Theory: A worldview; Representation of reality whose purpose is to describe, explain, and predict phenomena of interest; Set of interrelated constructs [concepts], definitions, and propositions which specify the relationships; made up of concepts and propositions about a phenomenon of interest; Diverse works from a theorist’s point of view; 

Theories range from “very abstract and general conceptual models to less abstract and general grand theories, to relatively concrete and specific middle-range theories, to very concrete and specific narrow-range, situation-specific theories” (Fawcett, 2013, p. 593). Theories are derived from conceptual models. Theories are NEVER proved, only tested: Research only strengthens, refutes, or refines the theory tested. 

Types of middle-range theories: Summary of Nursing Theories- Essay

  1. Descriptive (describe a phenomenon, “information presenting”); 
  2. Explanatory (specify how concepts are related to each other to explain the phenomenon of interest, “knowledge building”); 
  3. Predictive (specify how one concept affects one or more other concepts, “knowledge confirming”); 
  4. Prescriptive (“knowing utilization”). 

Nursing Theory: “A relatively specific and concrete set of concepts and propositions that purports to account for or characterize phenomena of interest to the discipline of nursing” (Fawcett, 1989, p. 23). Usually focuses on healthcare experiences, conditions, or events; 

Theoretical Framework: Provides a frame of reference for current practice and future study. Provides the rationale for the predictions of the relationships between the variables of interest and therefore provides a structure for research studies

The purpose of researching the propositions of a study is to determine if the predictions they hypothesize are valid, that is— does the theory hold true in the real world? 

Theoretical frameworks can be thought of as Road Maps. 

Theoretical frameworks: Provide directions for how to practice nursing according to a philosophical bent, analytic or continental. Guide the design and conduct of research by helping the researcher make decisions about whom to sample, sample selection, data collection process, and forms, how to analyze the data, etc. They help to make sense of the meaning of the study (meaningful interpretation) to provide theory-based implications for practice. 

Borrowed or Shared Theoretical Frameworks: theoretical frameworks from disciplines other than nursing used in the nursing domain. Nurses may use borrowed theories in conjunction with nursing theories to inform and guide practice (though theories should be examined for congruence with nursing ideals and situations). (Summary of nursing theories essay

Borrowed theories have been used in nursing theory development. Commonly “borrowed” theories include:  

  1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 
  2. Selye’s General Adaptation Theory (Stress Theory)  
  3. Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Model  
  4. Lazarus & Folkman’s Theory of Stress and Coping 
  5. Kohlberg’s Moral Reasoning Theory  (Summary of Nursing Theories- Essay)
  6. Bandura’s Social Learning Theory 
  7. Azjen & Fishbein’s Theory of Reasoned Action and Theory of Planned Behavior 
  8.  Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Theory  
  9. Freire’s Theory of Human Liberation 
  10. Chaos and Complexity theories  
  11. Von Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory  
  12. Lewin’s Change Theory 

Nursing Theories Metaparadigms

Metaparadigms: “a set of concepts and propositions that sets forth the phenomena with which a discipline is concerned. 

A metaparadigm is the most general statement of a discipline and functions as a framework in which the more restricted structures of conceptual models develop” (Miller-Keane Dictionary, 2003); “The concepts that identify the phenomena of central interest to a discipline; the propositions that describe those concepts and their relationships to each other” (Farlex Dictionary, 2009). (Summary of nursing theories essay)

The four phenomena of central interest that define nursing are identified as: 

  3. HEALTH,

Think about these as the elements of nursing, the key foci of patient care: nursing actions (nursing) are administered to patients/families/communities (person) in a setting (institutional or home environment) for the purpose of attaining, recovering, or maintaining health or assuring a good death (health). (Summary of Nursing Theories- Essay)

Each theorist defines the metaparadigms according to their worldview. For example, Orem’s definition of the nursing metaparadigm is different from Martha Rogers’ or Sister Callista Roy’s definitions. Orem defines the Person metaparadigm as “an integrated whole,” Martha Rogers as “an energy field,” and Roy as a “biopsychosocial being.(Summary of nursing theories essay)

General Definitions of the 4 Nursing Phenomena or Metaparadigms of Nursing

  1. Nursing metaparadigm: the art and science of nursing; nursing actions or nursing interventions; what nurses DO. Includes applying professional knowledge, technical skills, “hands-on” care
  2. Person metaparadigm: defined according to the patient (the person) and may include the patient’s family and friends and the community
  3. Health metaparadigm: defined according to the patient’s perspective; Refers to the patient’s level of wellness (or illness to wellness continuum) and ability to access healthcare; health is a relative term; many aspects to health/wellness (physical, psychological, mental, intellectual, emotional, spiritual); 
  4. Environment metaparadigm: internal, external, and social factors that impact a patient’s health (genetics, culture, interpersonal relationships, economics, mental state, geographic location)(Summary of nursing theories essay)

List of the 82 Nursing Theories

  1. Goal Attainment Theory
  2. Orem’s Self-care Deficit Theory 
  3. Suchman’s Stages of Illness Model
  4. Betty Neuman’s Systems Model in Nursing Care
  5. Roy’s Adaptation Model in the Nursing Process
  6. Peplau’s Interpersonal theory in the Nursing Process
  7. Health Belief Model in Nursing Practice
  8. Attachment Theory : John Bowlby
  9. Attribution Theory(Summary of Nursing Theories- Essay)
  10. Betty Neuman’s system model
  11. Behaviorist Theory
  12. Biopsychosocial Model
  13. Care, Cure and Core: The Three C’s of Lydia Hall
  14. Comfort Theory by Katharine Kolcaba
  15. Cybernetics(Summary of Nursing Theories- Essay)
  16. Decision-Making Models
  17. Development of Nursing Theories
  18. Ernestine Wiedenbach’s “The Helping Art of Clinical Nursing
  19. Epistemology of Nursing
  20. Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development
  21. From Novice to Expert: Patricia Benner
  22. Faye Glenn Abdellah’s Theory
  23. Functional Health Patterns by Majory Gorden
  24. Health Promotion Model
  25. Health Belief Model
  26. Helping and Human Relationships Theory : Robert R. Carkhuff
  27. Human Becoming Theory : Rosemarie Rizzo Parse
  28. Human-To-Human Relationship Model by Joyce Travelbee
  29. Grounded Theory in Nursing Research
  30. Gate Control Theory of Pain
  31. Germ Theory of Disease(Summary of nursing theories essay)
  32. Hans Selye’s Stress Theory
  33. Harry Stalk Sullivan’s Interpersonal Theory
  34. Introduction to Nursing Theories
  35. Jean Piaget’s Cognitive Development Theory
  36. Jean Watson’s theory(Summary of nursing theories essay)
  37. Johnson’s behavior system model
  38. Kurt Lewin’s Change Theory
  39. Laws (Principles) of Learning 
  40. Learned Helplessness Model
  41. Levin’s Four Conservation Principles
  42. Life Perspective Rhythm Model by Joyce Fitzpatrick
  43. Martha Roger’s Science of unitary human beings
  44. Maslow’s Theory of Needs
  45. Modeling and Role Modeling Theory by Erickson, Tomlin & Swain
  46. McGill Model of Nursing by F. Moyra Allen
  47. Models of Prevention
  48. Models of Nursing Care Delivery
  49. Newman’s Health As Expanding Consciousness
  50. Nursing Theorists
  51. Nursing Theories: An Overview
  52. Nursing Theories and Research
  53. Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory
  54. Orlando’s Nursing Process
  55. Object Relations Theory
  56. Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model
  57. Psychoanalytic Theory
  58. Roy’s Adaptation Model
  59. Roper–Logan–Tierney Model of Nursing
  60. Systems Theory in Nursing
  61. Stress-Diathesis Model
  62. Stuart Stress Adaptation Model
  63. Self-efficacy Theory(Summary of nursing theories essay)
  64. Statistical Theory
  65. Theories Based on Interactive Process
  66. Theories of Florence Nightingale
  67. Theories Applied in Psychiatric Nursing
  68. Theories Used in Community Health Nursing
  69. Theories of Intelligence
  70. Theories of Learning
  71. Theory of Mind
  72. Theory of Interpersonal Relations:: Peplau
  73. Theory of Goal Attainment: Imogene King
  74. Theory of Chronic Sorrow
  75. Theory of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger
  76. Theory of Moral Development
  77. Theory of Evolution(Summary of Nursing Theories- Essay)
  78. Tidal Model of Mental Health Nursing
  79. Trajectory Model by Corbin & Strauss
  80. Transcultural Nursing
  81. Understanding the works of Nursing Theorists
  82. Virginia Henderson’s Need Theory(Summary of nursing theories essay)
Summary of Nursing Theories- Essay