Teaching the Application of Conceptual Models and Theories of Nursology

Contributor: Jacqueline Fawcett, RN: PhD; ScD (hon); FAAN; ANEF
July 2, 2019


The purpose of this teaching strategy is to provide students with opportunities to apply conceptual models and theories of nursology to members of a multi-generational culturally diverse family.


The first step is to create a multi-generational culturally diverse family. One approach is to identify the last name of  a prominent historical person from the town or city in which the nursology program is located. For example, I created the Franklin Family (based on Benjamin Franklin) when I was working at a university in Philadelphia, and the Revere Family (based on Paul Revere) when working in Boston, Massachusetts. Existing examples of the use of several models and theories as guides for practice and research are published in Fawcett & DeSanto-Madeya (2013). The name of the family used for the applications in our book was a contraction of our last names—the Macett Family—which was invented by Dr. DeSanto-Madeya’s three children.  First names and last names of family members by partnership or marriage reflect diverse cultures. For example, see the diagram of the Revere family.

Revere Family revised

The second step is to assign a team of students to each family member and to a conceptual model or theory   The number of students for each team depends on the number of models and theories to be taught in the course and the number of students in the course.

The third step is to instruct the students to identify personal and health-related characteristics of each family member, as well as the setting in which an interaction between the family member and a nursologist would occur, such as an acute care hospital, an in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation facility, a clinic, a community agency (e.g., a senior citizen center), or a family member’s home. In class time can be available for the students in each team to discuss the personal and health-related characteristics of the family members, or this step could be an out-of-class activity for the teams.

The fourth step is for each team of students to role play an interaction between the family member and a nursologist, and any other relevant health care team member(s), using the practice methodology (nursing process) of the relevant conceptual model or theory (see step two). Practice methodologies for several conceptual models and theories are published in Fawcett and DeSanto-Madeya (2013), and brief outlines of the practice methodologies for several of the models and theories are available on the Nursology.net Models & Theories Gallery .
The role play is the application part of each class meeting; the time allotted for the role play depends on how much other time is allotted for other content (e.g., showing a video of the nurse theorist, instructor summary of the content of the conceptual model or theory).

Throughout the fourth step, the course instructor may coach the students as they apply the relevant practice methodology. The instructor may also invent a context for all of the applications by inventing a nursology corporation, that is, a nursolgist-owned and operated practice that contracts with clinical agencies (see content about nurse corporations in Guardian of the Discipline Grayce M. Sills (1926-2016).

Parse (2019), who offered a possibility that is similar to Sills’ idea of nursology corporations, recommended that, given the current movement toward less hospital-based and more technology-driven health care,   nurses (i.e., nursologists) should form community centers as the locus for health care. She asked, “Could there be community centers owned and managed by [nursologists] that are regionally situated to offer services to a group of families in a region using robotic science, telehealth, and other technological advances?” (Parse 2019, p. 169).

Students do not always have time to get together to plan the role playing for each family member. Students usually need some coaching to present the family member content within the context of the language of a particular conceptual model or theory; they may use more general nursing terms rather than the terms of the relevant conceptual model or theory.


I have used this teaching strategy effectively at two universities with master’s degree students. The strategy also could be used to enhance undergraduate students’ understanding of use of conceptual models and theories of nursology to guide practice, and to enhance doctoral students’ understanding of the use of conceptual models and theories of nursology to guide quality improvement projects (DNP students) and research (PhD students).


Learning may be assessed by means of examination questions about application of the conceptual models and theories, rather than questions about the model or theory content per se.


Fawcett, J., & DeSanto-Madeya, S. (2013). Contemporary nursing knowledge: Analysis and evaluation of nursing models and theories (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis.

Parse, R. R. (2019). Healthcare venues in transition: A paradigm shift? Nursing Science Quarterly, 32, 169-170.



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