Science of Unitary
The Science of Unitary and Irreducible Human Beings
Martha E. Rogers first described her Theory of Unitary Man in 1961, and almost from the first, there has been widespread controversy and debate among nursing theorists and scholars regarding her work (Phillips, 1994). Prior to Rogers, it was rare that anyone in nursing viewed human beings as anything other than the receivers of care by nurses and physicians. Furthermore, the health care system was organized by specialization, in which nurses and other health providers focused on discrete areas or functions (e.g., a dressing change, medication administration, or health teaching) rather than on the whole person. As a result, it took many professionals working in isolation, none of whom knew the whole person, to care for patients. Rogers’ (1970) insistence that the person was a “unitary energy system” in “continuous mutual interaction with the universal energy system” (p. 90) dramatically influenced nursing by encouraging nurses to consider each person as a whole (a unity) when planning and delivering care.
Background of the Theorist
Martha Rogers was born on May 12, 1914 (the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth) (Dossey, 2000) in Dallas, Texas. She earned a diploma in nursing from Knoxville General Hospital in 1936 and a bachelor’s degree from George Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee in 1937. She later received a master’s degree in public health nursing from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, and a master’s degree in public health and a doctor of science from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland (Gunther, 2010).
Rogers became the head of the Division of Nursing of New York University (NYU) in 1954, where she focused on teaching and formulating and elaborating her theory (Hektor, 1989). She was teacher and mentor to an impressive list of nursing scholars and theorists, including Newman and Parse, whose works are described later in the chapter. Rogers continued her work and writing until her death in March, 1994.
Philosophical Underpinnings of the Theory
The Science of Unitary and Irreducible Human Beings started as an abstract theory that was synthesized from theories of numerous sciences; therefore, it was deductively derived. Of particular importance was von Bertalanffy’s theory on general systems, which contributed the concepts of entropy and negentropy and posited that open systems are characterized by constant interaction with the environment. The work of Rapoport provided a background on open systems, and the work of Herrick contributed to the premise of evolution of human nature (Rogers, 1994).
Rogers’ synthesis of the works of these scientists formed the basis of her proposition that human systems are open systems, embedded in larger, open environmental systems. She also brought in other concepts, including the idea that time is unidirectional, that living systems have pattern and organization, and that man is a sentient, thinking being capable of awareness, feeling, and choosing. From all these theories, and from her personal study of nature, Rogers (1970) developed her original Theory of Unitary Man. She continuously refined and elaborated her theory, which she retitled Science of Unitary Humans (Rogers, 1986) and finally, shortly before her death, the Science of Unitary and Irreducible Human Beings (Rogers, 1994).
Major Assumptions, Concepts, and Relationships
Rogers presented several assumptions about man. These are as follows:
· Man is a unified whole possessing integrity and manifesting characteristics that are more than and different from the sum of his parts (Rogers, 1970, p. 47).
· Man and environment are continuously exchanging matter and energy with one another (Rogers, 1970, p. 54).
· The life process evolves irreversibly and unidirectionally along the space–time continuum (Rogers, 1970, p. 59).
· Pattern and organization identify man and reflect his innovative wholeness (Rogers, 1970, p. 65).
· Man is characterized by the capacity for abstraction and imagery, language and thought, sensation, and emotion (Rogers, 1970, p. 73).
Rogers (1990) later revised the term man to human being to coincide with the request for gender-neutral language in the social sciences and nursing science.
In Rogers’ work, the unitary human being and the environment are the focus of nursing practice. Other central components are energy fields, openness, pandimensionality, and pattern; these she identified as the “building blocks” (Rogers, 1970, p. 226) of her system. Rogers also derived three other components for the model, which served as a basis of her work. These were based on principles of homeo dynamics and were termed resonancy, helicy, and integrality(Rogers, 1990) (Box 9-1). Definitions of the nursing metaparadigm concepts and other important concepts in Rogers’ work are listed in Table 9-1.
Box 9-1: Principles of Homeodynamics Applied in Rogers’ Theory
· 1. Resonancy is continuous change from lower to higher frequency wave patterns in human and environmental fields.
· 2. Helicy is continuous innovative, unpredictable, increasing diversity of human and environmental field patterns.
· 3. Integrality is continuous mutual human and environmental field processes.
Source: Rogers (1990, p. 8).
Table 9-1: Central Concepts of Rogers’ Science of Unitary Human Beings
|Human–unitary human beings||“Irreducible, indivisible, multidimensional energy fields identified by pattern and manifesting characteristics that are specific to the whole and which cannot be predicted from the knowledge of the parts” (p. 7).|
|Health||“Unitary human health signifies an irreducible human field manifestation. It cannot be measured by the parameters of biology or physics or of the social sciences” (p. 10).|
|Nursing||“The study of unitary, irreducible, indivisible human and environmental fields: people and their world” (p. 6). Nursing is a learned profession that is both a science and an art.|
|Environmental field||“An irreducible, indivisible, pandimensional energy field identified by pattern and integral with the human field” (p. 7).|
|Energy field||“The fundamental unit of the living and the non-living. Field is a unifying concept. Energy signifies the dynamic nature of the field; a field is in continuous motion and is infinite” (p. 7).|
|Openness||Refers to qualities exhibited by open systems; human beings and their environment are open systems.|
|Pandimensional||“A nonlinear domain without spatial or temporal attributes” (p. 28).|
|Pattern||“The distinguishing characteristic of an energy field perceived as a single wave” (p. 7).|
|Source: Rogers (1990).|
The Science of Unitary and Irreducible Human Beings is fundamentally abstract; therefore, specifically defined relationships differ from those in more linear theories. The major components of Rogers’ model revolve around the building blocks (energy