Who is responsible for training or maintaining models

Nursing theories and models easily explained

Anyone who works or wants to work in nursing will sooner or later deal with nursing theories or nursing models. Monika Krohwinkel, Hildegard Peplau, Martha Elisabeth Rogers, Madeleine Leininger, Dorothea Orem or Nancy Roper, all of these names lead back to different theories and models in nursing.

In this article we explain to you the principles on which these nursing theories and models are based, what significance they have in today's nursing practice, and how you as a nurse can find a practice-oriented way through the jungle of theory.

the essentials in brief

  • The history of nursing theories begins in the USA and UK
  • In Germany they are mainly in the 80s and 90s spread
  • The practicality, necessity and effectiveness of nursing theories will discussed until today
  • Nursing theories are not to be equated with care models
  • Nursing theories offer that Basis for various care models, which can be roughly divided into the following categories:
    • Need models (The main focus is on people's needs)
    • Interaction models (the focus is on interpersonal relationships)
    • Nursing outcome models (Concepts and nursing approaches focus on the end result of nursing)

Nursing Theories - Definition

The term “nursing theories” refers to a set of abstract concepts that are intended to make it possible to explain general incidents in the nursing area. They serve to convey an understanding of nursing and thus provide the basis for actions in nursing practice. Nursing theories are continuously confirmed, expanded or disqualified in practice. Nursing theory and nursing practice therefore mutually influence one another.

Nursing Theories - History

The first attempts at developing nursing theories can be found in the USA and Great Britain in the early 1950s. Up until the beginning of the 1980s, nursing scientists tried to work out an ideal of nursing action with such theories, searching for generally applicable concepts without going into individually different individual cases. Due to the limited practicality of these approaches, there was then a pluralism of theories and efforts to structure these numerous theories in a practice-related manner. The nursing sciences were officially established in Germany in 1987 with a first professorship at the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences.

Nursing theories and models

Nursing theories are often equated with nursing models. However, if you take it seriously, these terms have different meanings. A nursing model is a simplified, practical form of one or more abstract nursing theories. Models - just like nursing theories - make general statements about people, their surroundings and their care, but they provide specific information about the tasks of nursing staff, the care goals and possible care planning. Thanks to this practical relevance, nursing models help to review nursing theories.

Good to know!

The early Anglo-American nursing theories largely influenced later theories of German nursing scientists.

1. Peplau nursing theory (basis for interaction models)

Hildegard Peplau published "Interpersonal Relations in Nursing" in the USA in 1952 - a nursing theory based on interpersonal relationships. Peplaus nursing theory focuses on two aspects: a) the different phases of relationship building b) the different roles of a nurse.

2. Leininger care theory (basis for needs models)

Transcultural nursing theories, such as that of Madeleine Leininger, which originated in the United States in 1966, place the cultural dimension of the human being at the center of nursing. The actions of the carers always adapt to the cultural characteristics of the individual and his environment.

3. Rogers' nursing theory (basis for nursing outcome models)

In 1970 Martha Elisabeth Rogers developed the American nursing theory, also known as the “energy field theory”. The main focus for Rogers is the end result of the care, which is to be achieved through a holistic view of the human being as an energy field. If there is an imbalance between a person's energy field and the individual energy fields in the environment, care is necessary. According to Rogers, there are eight energy centers in the human body. If these energy centers are blocked, physical or psychopathological symptoms occur.

4. Orem care theory (basis for needs models)

With the publication of her book “Nursing Concepts of Practice” in 1971, the American nursing scientist Dorothea Orem made a nursing theory known, which puts its main focus on the basic human need to care for themselves. This self-care ability can be limited by illness or other circumstances. Orem's theory is based on this “self-help deficit”, which she describes, and develops three central ideas:

a) Self-care as a learned activity

b) Development of a self-care deficit with insufficient self-care ability

c) Adaptation to the self-help ability of the person to be cared for through various care systems, which range from self-care education to complete compensation of the self-care deficit by the carer.

5. Roper nursing theory (basis for needs models)

The British nursing scientist Nancy Roper published her nursing theory for the first time in 1980 in "The Elements of Nursing". At Roper, the focus is on life, whereby it is based on various life activities and the lifespan, which are viewed in dynamic interaction with external and internal influences. Nancy Roper also focuses on the dignity and individuality of the person being cared for. The following twelve life activities are considered in Roper's nursing theory:

1) Provide a safe environment
2) Communicate
3) To breathe
4) to eat and drink
5) Retirement
6) Keeping yourself clean and dressing
7) Regulate body temperature
8) Move
9) Work and play
10) To feel like a man and a woman
11) Sleep
12) To die

6. Krohwinkel nursing theory (basis for needs models)

Monika Krohwinkel is a German nursing scientist. She presented her nursing theory in 1993. Derived from Nancy Roper's life activities, this nursing theory is based, among other things, on the so-called "ABEDL structure". The abbreviation ABEDL stands for “activities, relationships and existential experiences in life”. If these "ABEDL" are restricted by illness, disability or age, care is necessary. As far as possible, care activities should help sick or disabled people to regain such missing skills.

Good to know!

In addition to subdividing nursing theories into models of interaction, needs, and nursing outcomes, there are also differences in the range of the theories. One speaks of "grand" theories, which have a high level of abstraction and can therefore be used for many other models, and middle-range theories, also called maintenance models, which are more practical but also more specific and thus are more limited in their application.

What is the purpose of nursing theories? In the end, how necessary and effective are they?


Even if the purpose and necessity of nursing theories have long been questioned due to their limited practicality, they are an indispensable component of nursing science.

In summary and easily explained, you could put it this way: In practice, things always work differently than in theory. The reaction of people and the different living conditions are never one hundred percent in accordance with models. Nevertheless, it is very enriching and confidence-building to be able to rely on a theoretical framework for care. Without nursing theories, nursing sciences would also be non-existent as a degree. The theory gives the nurse professional security, especially in the first years of practice. The experience, intuition and empathy of the caregivers then ensure a realistic practice, which should always be adapted to the individual characteristics and needs of the people to be cared for.

FAQ - Frequently asked questions about nursing theories

  • Nursing theories are theoretical concepts that describe phenomena in the field of care and people and define care activities.

  • The terms 'care theory' and 'care model' are very often used as synonyms. However, if you want to be more precise, you should know that a 'model' is understood to be a simplified, practice-oriented form of 'theory' that illustrates it in concrete terms. That is why the term 'model' is usually used for medium-range theories.

  • There is no general answer to this question. Nursing theories are to be considered in addition. Grooming theories are like products on a supermarket shelf. Imagine shopping for dinner with someone special. Depending on your needs, you will need this or that ingredient. It certainly always makes sense to respond to the individuality of the person being cared for (Roper), to respect their cultural awareness (Leininger) and to pay attention to beneficial relationships with the nursing staff (Peplau). You can add other products to the shopping cart as required. Some nursing homes also suggest certain nursing theories to their staff as 'nursing policies'. The more you know about different theories, the richer your practical arsenal will be in everyday life.

  • https://www.thieme.de/de/pflegepaedagogik/5-pflegetheorien-pflegemodelle-151708.htm