Martha Rogers’ Science of Unitary Human Beings postulates that a human is a unitary being that is one with its universe. This means that the person and their environment are one and the same. The theory addresses the importance of the environment in patient care and explains how nursing is both an art and a science. Therefore, a nurse practitioner must blend both aspects of nursing to create an environment where the patient can thrive and recover most effectively.
Rogers’s publications identify five assumptions under which her theory operates. Firstly, she states that “man is a unified whole possessing his own integrity and manifesting characteristics that are more than and different from the sum of his parts” (Phillips, 2019). Secondly, “man and the environment are continuously exchanging matter and energy with one another.” (Phillips, 2019) The third assumption is that “the life process evolves irreversibly and unidirectionally along the space-time continuum.” (Phillips, 2019) The fourth assumption is that “Pattern and organization identify the man and reflect his innovative wholeness.” (Phillips, 2019) Finally, “man is characterized by the capacity for abstraction and imagery, language and thought sensation and emotion.” (Phillips, 2019) The theory identifies a human being as a singular, irreducible energy field identifiable by a pattern and exhibiting characteristics unique to the whole, which are not exhibited by its component parts. Human’s health is a product of the interaction of their energy field with their environment and the aim of nursing is to help people reach their highest health potential.
Origin of the Theory
Rogers was considered a pioneer in the field of nursing, as she was among the first to center her theories of nursing practice around the patient and their environment. Her theory was linked to that of Florence Nightingale’s attestation that nursing existed for the purpose of caring for the patient (Phillips, 2019). While she did not use empirical evidence in her assertions, she used ideas from anthropology, psychology, history, biology, physics (including the principle of thermodynamics), and mathematics, among others (Phillips, 2019). At the time when Rogers was working on her theory, nursing was beginning to be viewed as a scientific discipline. This likely influenced the creation of the Science of Unitary Human Beings, as one of its emphases lay in the affirmation that nursing is both a science and an art form.
The theory of Science of Unitary Human Beings provided clearly articulated guidelines for the education of nurses. It has therefore been used as a reference for curriculum development in all levels of nursing education (Phillips, 2019). Additionally, Rogers’ views on the separation of licensing for nurses with an Associate’s degree versus those with a Bachelor’s degree have influenced the way nurses are assigned tasks based on education. Rogers’ theory influenced the direction of research in the field of nursing and led to the formation of many nursing theories, as well as to further study of the relationship between patient and environment.
Practical applications of the theory have had more success in long-term care as opposed to episodic illness or hospitalization. Science of Unitary Human Beings addresses the issues of nursing is seen as a wholly practical profession, whereas the theory postulates that practical skills must be supplemented with theoretical knowledge. This made application difficult in an environment where nursing was considered to be a purely practical area. Overall, the theory has contributed to the reformation of the way nursing is viewed, as well as highlighting some of the issues that are experienced by nurses due to the lack of a theoretical or even spiritual component. One of the ways the theory can be applied today is to the nurses themselves, as the theory can allow identifying burnout. The theory can be used as a source of motivation when one is experiencing mental fatigue.
The theory of Science of Unitary Human Beings is not testable due to lacking a concrete hypothesis. The conceptual model Rogers created provided a direction for further research with its broad assumptions. This promoted further research into the relationship between the environment and the patient’s well-being, seeking to explain human phenomena. Three major theories were based on the Science of Unitary Human Beings: Newman’s theory of health and expanding consciousness, Parse’s theory of human-becoming, and Fitzpatrick’s model of life perspective rhythm (Phillips, 2019). A recent study by Willis et al. in 2015 used the Science of Unitary Human Beings to postulate a theory of men’s healing from childhood mistreatment (Phillips, 2019). This shows that the theory continues to be applicable to research done today.
Rogers’ theory is an abstract framework that lacks any specific hypotheses or theories. Instead, it offers a basis for which further research can be done and by which nursing education and practices can be directed. The main strength of the theory is that it provides a worldview that can be applied to a wide array of issues instead of being overly specific. The weaknesses are its lack of concrete hypotheses, which makes testing the theory difficult, as there are no measurable aspects. Rogers also never explains the role of nurses, instead stating that they exist to serve people. Finally, she does not define the concept of ‘heath’, despite stating that the nurse’s purpose is to promote the health and well-being of the patient. This vagueness makes the theory widely applicable. However, it makes it difficult to test or quantify it. Therefore, the Science of Unitary Human Beings should be used as a baseline for understanding the mindset a nurse practitioner needs to have. However, other theories should be consulted in regard to definitive practices.
Phillips, J. R. (2019). Unitariology and the changing frontiers of the science of unitary human beings. Nursing Science Quarterly, 32(3), 207-213.