Martha E. Rogers’ Theory of Unitary Human Beings


The belief of the coexistence of the human and the environment has greatly influenced the process of change toward better health. In short, a patient can’t be separated from his or her environment when addressing health and treatment. This view lead and opened Martha E. Rogerstheory, known as the “Science of Unitary Human Beings,” which allowed nursing to be considered one of the scientific disciplines.


Rogers’ theory defined Nursing as “an art and science that is humanistic and humanitarian. It is directed toward the unitary human and is concerned with the nature and direction of human development. The goal of nurses is to participate in the process of change.”

According to Rogers, the Science of Unitary Human Beings contains two dimensions: the science of nursing, which is the knowledge specific to the field of nursing that comes from scientific research; and the art of nursing, which involves using the science of nursing creatively to help better the life of the patient.


The assumptions of Rogers’ Theory of Unitary Human Beings are as follows: (1) Man is a unified whole possessing his own integrity and manifesting characteristics that are more than and different from the sum of his parts. (2) Man and environment are continuously exchanging matter and energy with one another. (3) The life process evolves irreversibly and unidirectionally along the space-time continuum. (4) Pattern and organization identify the man and reflect his innovative wholeness. And lastly, (5) Man is characterized by the capacity for abstraction and imagery, language and thought sensation and emotion.

Major Concepts

Human-unitary human beings

A person is defined as an indivisible, pan-dimensional energy field identified by a pattern, and manifesting characteristics specific to the whole, and that can’t be predicted from knowledge of the parts. A person is also a unified whole, having its own distinct characteristics that can’t be viewed by looking at, describing, or summarizing the parts.


Rogers defines health as an expression of the life process. It is the characteristics and behavior coming from the mutual, simultaneous interaction of the human and environmental fields, and health and illness are part of the same continuum. The multiple events occurring during the life process show the extent to which a person is achieving his or her maximum health potential. The events vary in their expressions from greatest health to those conditions that are incompatible with the maintaining life process.


It is the study of unitary, irreducible, indivisible human and environmental fields: people and their world. Rogers claims that nursing exists to serve people, and the safe practice of nursing depends on the nature and amount of scientific nursing knowledge the nurse brings to his or her practice

Scope of Nursing

Nursing aims to assist people in achieving their maximum health potential. Maintenance and promotion of health, prevention of disease, nursing diagnosis, intervention, and rehabilitation encompass the scope of nursing’s goals.

Nursing is concerned with people-all people-well and sick, rich and poor, young and old. The arenas of nursing’s services extend into all areas where there are people: at home, at school, at work, at play; in hospital, nursing home, and clinic; on this planet and now moving into outer space.

Environmental Field

“An irreducible, indivisible, pandimensional energy field identified by pattern and integral with the human field.”

Energy Field

The energy field is the fundamental unit of both the living and the non-living. It provides a way to view people and the environment as irreducible wholes. The energy fields continuously vary in intensity, density, and extent.



There are no boundaries that stop energy flow between the human and environmental fields, which is the openness in Rogers’ theory. It refers to qualities exhibited by open systems; human beings and their environment are open systems.


Pan-dimensionality is defined as “non-linear domain without spatial or temporal attributes.” The parameters that humans use in language to describe events are arbitrary, and the present is relative; there is no temporal ordering of lives.

Synergy is defined as the unique behavior of whole systems, unpredicted by any behaviors of their component functions taken separately.

Human behavior is synergistic.


Rogers defined the pattern as the distinguishing characteristic of an energy field seen as a single wave. It is an abstraction and gives identity to the field.

Principles of Homeodynamics

Homeodynamics should be understood as a dynamic version of homeostasis (a relatively steady state of internal operation in the living system).

Homeodynamic principles postulate a way of viewing unitary human beings. The three principles of homeodynamics are resonance, helicy, and integrality.

Principle of Reciprocy

Postulates the inseparability of man and environment and predicts that sequential changes in life process are continuous, probabilistic revisions occurring out of the interactions between man and environment.

Principle of Synchrony

This principle predicts that change in human behavior will be determined by the simultaneous interaction of the actual state of the human field and the actual state of the environmental field at any given point in space-time.

Principle of Integrality (Synchrony + Reciprocy)

Because of the inseparability of human beings and their environment, sequential changes in the life processes are continuous revisions occurring from the interactions between human beings and their environment.


Between the two entities, there is a constant mutual interaction and mutual change whereby simultaneous molding is taking place in both at the same time.

Principle of Resonancy

It speaks to the nature of the change occurring between human and environmental fields. The life process in human beings is a symphony of rhythmical vibrations oscillating at various frequencies.

It is the identification of the human field and the environmental field by wave patterns manifesting continuous change from longer waves of lower frequency to shorter waves of higher frequency.

Principle of Helicy

The human-environment field is a dynamic, open system in which change is continuous due to the constant interchange between the human and environment.

This change is also innovative. Because of constant interchange, an open system is never exactly the same at any two moments; rather, the system is continually new or different.

Science of Unitary Human Beings and Nursing Process

The nursing process has three steps in Rogers’ Theory of Unitary Human Beings: assessment, voluntary mutual patterning, and evaluation.

The areas of assessment are: the total pattern of events at any given point in space-time, simultaneous states of the patient and his or her environment, rhythms of the life process, supplementary data, categorical disease entities, subsystem pathology, and pattern appraisal. The assessment should be a comprehensive assessment of the human and environmental fields.

Mutual patterning of the human and environmental fields includes:

  • sharing knowledge
  • offering choices
  • empowering the patient
  • fostering patterning
  • evaluation
  • repeat pattern appraisal, which includes nutrition, work/leisure activities, wake/sleep cycles, relationships, pain, and fear/hopes
  • identify dissonance and harmony
  • validate appraisal with the patient
  • self-reflection for the patient


Rogers’ concepts provide a worldview from which nurses may derive theories and hypotheses and propose relationships specific to different situations.

Rogers’ theory is not directly testable due to lack of concrete hypotheses, but it is testable in principle.


Rogers’ model does not define particular hypotheses or theories for it is an abstract, unified and highly derived framework.

Testing the concepts’ validity is questionable because its concepts are not directly measurable.

The theory was believed to be profound and was too ambitious because the concepts are extremely abstract.


Rogers claimed that nursing exists to serve people, however, nurses’ roles were not clearly defined.

The purpose of nurses is to promote health and well-being for all persons wherever they are. However, Rogers’ model has no concrete definition of health state.


The Science of Unitary Human Beings is highly generalizable as the concepts and ideas are not confined with a specific nursing approach unlike the usual way of other nurse theorists in defining the major concepts of a theory.

Rogers gave much emphasis on how a nurse should view the patient. She developed principles which emphasize that a nurse should view the client as a whole.

Her statements, in general, made us believe that a person and his or her environment are integral to each other. That is, a patient can’t be separated from his or her environment when addressing health and treatment. Her conceptual framework has greatly influenced all aspects of nursing by offering an alternative to traditional approaches of nursing.

See Also


With contributions by Wayne, G., Ramirez, Q.

Last updated on
Angelo Gonzalo, BSN, RN
Angelo Gonzalo earned his Nursing degree in the year 2010 and continued his studies at St. Paul University Manila taking up Masters of Arts in Nursing Major in Clinical Management. He worked as an intensive care nurse for more than six years. He advocates for proper training and development of new nurses, quality assurance and compassionate care. He has also been involved in community development for 10 years steering programs on good governance, health, sports, and education. Angelo aims to build a good foundation for aspiring nurses. He would like to impart the importance of understanding nursing theories that he hopes to be translated successfully to practice.


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