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Applying the Nursing Theory of Martha Rogers

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Martha Rogers

Martha Rogers

Science of Unitary Human Beings

Martha Rogers’s nursing theory, known as the Science of Unitary Human Beings, emphasizes both the scientific nature of nursing as well as its humanitarian aspects. It is a diverse model developed in the middle of the previous century, but which retains relevance to this day. Though not describing specifics, the framework set by Rogers’s theory allows nurses to operate from a place of scientific assurance in the work they do, all the while maintaining focus on the patients they work with. Martha Rogers’s theory is a useful model for addressing the growing issue of nursing burnout, which is known to cause increased rates of morbidity and mortality in the clinical setting (Alligood, 2014).

The Theory at Different Nursing Levels

When applying the Science of Unitary Human Beings to the individual level, the first thing to note is Rogers’s maxim to treat each person as irreducible. Though certainly, each human is made up of systems and tissue which must be understood to save a life or reduce one’s suffering, Rogers insists that individuals are more than the sum of their parts. Each human being has value intrinsic to his or herself that cannot be understood through mere knowledge of the workings of that human’s body (Alligood, 2014).

The mind plays a role in Rogers’s nursing model, and it seems to be part of what she sees as being the driving force to do good work in the field. Every nurse, much like every doctor, must reconcile within themselves why they do their work and why it is important to continue. Rogers offers that humans are more complex than the parts nurses interact with when endeavouring to cure or mend them. Therefore, nurses’ efforts are amplified when they endeavor to help save a life since that life is more valuable than the body that the nurse helped save. In this way, a nurse can find strong motivation to do this work to the best degree possible (Alligood, 2014).

That an individual is naturally embedded within their environment, is strongly influential on Rogers’s belief that nursing must be treated as a science. Nurses inherently are involved with observations and interventions that affect the world around them. Though each human is a complete individual unto themselves and is greater than the sum of their parts, these humans fit into a larger network of people known as a social structure or simple society. Therefore, nursing must be responsible for the effect it has on the world as a whole.

This observation on Rogers’s part has two implications. One is that an individual’s health is inherently linked to those around that individual and cannot be entirely understood in a vacuum. This is a common theme, explored by other nursing theorists as well. More unique is the way Rogers uses this concept to connect nursing to the sciences, arguing that an individual’s impact on and influence by their environment makes nursing a naturally scientific field. Koffi & Fawcett (2016) point out that Rogers’s theories helped spark a new era of scientific thought within the nursing community.

As has been hinted at so far, Marth Roger’s theory, the Science of Unitary Human Beings, has had a strong impact on health and nursing. But more clearly, it is important to note that by emphasizing both an individual's inherent worth as well as how that individual relates to the environment, Rogers’s helped improve patient-centered nursing practice. Under Rogers’s model, the concept of health expands beyond the body to the mind and, even more impressively, the relationships a patient has. This allows nurses to assess patients based on their psychosocial functioning in the world (Alligood, 2014).

Addressing Problems in Nursing

Rogers’s model is useful for addressing the issue of nursing burnout. Nursing staff burnout is one of the main obstacles to effectively maintaining a culture of safety, which is a set of “shared values, beliefs, norms, and procedures related to patient safety among members of an organization” (Weaver et al., 2013). Many nurses, while supporting in safety culture, end up compromising it due to being overworked. Some nurses, for example, work two full-time jobs at separate facilities, which leads to exhaustion.

The more stressed and tired a nurse becomes, the more likely mistakes are. Burnout is a condition that occurs when stress becomes so bad that it creates a kind of malaise. Though a nurse may know that focus is important for the job, one experiencing burnout simply cannot find the motivation to keep focus. Nurse burnout adds to anxiety and at-risk behavior in the workplace and poor patient-nurse communication. Nursing burnout may lead to poor decision-making (Dall'ora, C., Griffiths, & Ball, 2015).

Rogers’s approach to nursing frames the work in a new light. While many nurses have strong motivating factors when entering the field, seeing the results of what they do as being greater than the sum of their parts and having a rippling effect out in the environment can help them remain focused even during mental fatigue. Furthermore, applying Rogers’s theory to nurses themselves can help management see the need to allow nurses to rest. There is no wisdom in having an overworked staff. Since Rogers promotes understanding the connection of a patient to the environment, and application of her theory in this context would allow administrators to see that nursing staff are in fact a part of a patient’s environment. If the staff are not healthy, neither will the patients be (Dall'ora, C., Griffiths, & Ball, 2015).

Rogers’s theory works well with another model laid out by Betty Neuman, which focuses on the response of patients to environmental stressors. Since, as was just discussed, nurses themselves are a part of a patient’s environment, nurses who are burned out will act as a stressor to patients. Though the patient may not perceive this stress consciously, a nurse’s actions can have great impact on a patient’s health. Furthermore, nurses who are burned out are more likely to create situations that are stressful for a patient. Nurses are often responsible for patient placement within a clinic, and the loss of focus inherent to burnout could cause them to make poor choices when choosing which environments would be best suited to which patients (Ahmadi & Sadeghi, 2017).

Nurses who are burned out will act as a stressor to patients.

Nurses who are burned out will act as a stressor to patients.

Analysis and Comparison

Both models, Rogers’s Science of Unitary Human Beings and Neuman’s model addressing patient stressors, would work well for addressing nursing burnout and creating a culture of safety. One model stands out from the other, however, for being useful as both a motivational tool and a practical method of approaching the workplace environment of nurses: Rogers’s model.

As was mentioned, Rogers’s theory can be a source of motivation for nurses facing burnout, allowing them to see the importance of their work in a greater scope. But it is also a model that can be applied to nurses themselves and which dictates that nurses are inherently linked in health to those around them. If the nurse is unhealthy, so too will be the patient. Neuman’s model, on the other hand, provides very good motivation for why patients must be kept in a stress-free environment but does little to show how this might be done. Essentially, when applied to the specific topic of nursing burnout, Neuman’s model says little more than what is already known: that burnout can be harmful and that patients must be protected from the potential stressors nurses may cause them (Alligood, 2014).

As Weaver et al. (2013) demonstrate, creating a culture of safety within the health care setting is something that must be addressed scientifically. Rather than merely hoping everyone has the same goals in mind, there is an actual method to ensure people are coordinating and communicating properly to create a safe environment in which healing can occur. Rogers’s theory beats Neuman’s in this arena as well. Though Neuman’s model is not at all against science, it does not offer any answers in this area. Rogers’s theory is meant to be scientific and encourages an empirical approach to addressing all problems that may arise when applying this theory. Simply put, it is more likely to help create an evidence-based practice for a culture of safety.

Final Thoughts

The work of Martha Rogers has been an important contribution to the nursing community both for its reframing of the scope of the work being done and for its emphasis on scientific processes needed to address the problems facing nursing. It emphasizes both the importance of the individual as well as the connections that individual has to the environment and society as a whole. It presents human beings as being more than the sum of their whole. At the same time, Rogers’s theory advocates for an empirical approach to the problems facing nursing. Rogers’s work can be supplemented by Neuman’s when addressing nursing burnout. This creates a clear chain of action that must be accomplished to maintain a culture of safety that starts with identifying nurses as a part of the clinical environment and ends with reducing stressors to patients that would result from nursing burnout.


Alligood, M. R. (2014). Nursing Theory: Utilization & Application. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

Ahmadi, Z., & Sadeghi, T. (2017). Application of the Betty Neuman systems model in the nursing care of patients/clients with multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis Journal – Experimental, Translational and Clinical, 3(3), 205. doi:10.1177/2055217317726798

Dall'ora, C., Griffiths, P. & Ball, J. (2015) 12 hour shifts: nurse burnout, job satisfaction & intention to leave Evidence Brief, (3), 1-2.

Koffi, K. & Fawcett, J. (2016). The two nursing disciplinary scientific revolutions: Florence Nightingale and Martha E. Rogers. Nursing Science Quarterly, 29(3).

Weaver, S. J., Lubomksi, L. H., Wilson, R. F., Pfoh, E. R., Martinez, K. A., & Dy, S. M. (2013). Promoting a culture of safety as a patient safety strategy: A systematic review. Annals of Internal Medicine, 158(5 0 2), 369–374.


Irza on June 30, 2019:

Thank you for sharing this article, i need another applying the Nursing Theory of Maryha Rogers in cardiac disease area and cardiac perioperative area, spesiality in hospital, Thank you.

Bazaam Ali on December 26, 2018:

I need to now more information about the martha rogers Assumption

LEKC0225 on March 11, 2018:

Thank you for sharing this article. It is just what I needed while developing my personal nursing philosophy