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A legend retires: Sister Callista Roy ’63 CSJ

Author of the revolutionary Roy Adaptation Model for nursing is now a professor emerita at the Mount

August 31, 2020

Sister Callista Roy ’63, CSJ, an internationally renowned nursing theorist and an iconic figure at Mount Saint Mary’s, has officially retired.

It’s been 61 years since Roy first stepped foot on the Chalon Campus as a young sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. She spent the first two decades of her decorated career at the Mount, where she was a student, professor and chair of nursing. It was here, in the 1960s and 1970s, where she first developed what’s now globally known as the Roy Adaptation Model. 

Sister Callista Roy speaking at the Roy Adaptation Association Conference in June 2019
Sister Callista Roy speaking at the Roy Adaptation Association Conference in June 2019

A revolutionary approach at the time, Roy’s model advocated for treating patients as complex human beings with ever-changing biological, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Roy has described the model as “a lens through which you see a person not just as a sum of body systems but as a complex being in complex environments.”

Roy’s model became the gold standard for holistic patient care, and it has been credited for helping to humanize healthcare and advance the clinical responsibilities of nurse practitioners. The Roy Adaptation Model is still used around the world, where it provides a framework for nursing practice, education and research.

“Quite simply, it’s her model that makes our nursing graduates so different from nursing graduates elsewhere,” says Leah FitzGerald, PhD, dean of nursing. “Our curriculum is based on her model, so to have this living legend here in person the last three years, in the classroom and as a mentor, was such a gift. Not just for our students but for our faculty and staff, and that includes me.”

Roy earned her PhD in sociology at UCLA, served as a post-doctoral fellow in neuroscience nursing at the University of California, San Francisco, and spent 30 years as a professor and nurse theorist at Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing. She’s also published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles, books and book chapters, and delivered countless guest lectures worldwide. 

Sister Callista Roy with Debra Hanna, PhD, RN, at the Roy Adaptation Workshops last year. Hanna is the current president of the International Roy Adaptation Association.
Sister Callista Roy with Debra Hanna, PhD, RN, at the Roy Adaptation Workshops last year. Hanna is the current president of the International Roy Adaptation Association.

In 2017, Roy returned home to the Mount to end her career where it began. Roy’s legacy at the Mount is secure. Nursing students put her theories into practice every day when developing care plans, including for retired CSJs at the Carondelet Center — a connection Roy created last year. The Roy Adaptation Association International is also based at the University and aims to host a global conference in 2021. A grant from the Riordan Foundation will support Roy Scholars in the Master of Science in Nursing program as they further advance nursing theory.

Even better, Roy herself will stay involved. As professor emerita, she’ll remain available to deliver guest lectures and mentor students and professors — a retirement gift from the retiree to her Mount Saint Mary’s community.

 

Learn more about Sister Callista Roy

Revolutionizing healthcare: Sister Callista Roy ’63

In this video tribute to Roy on the 50th anniversary of her model, former students and colleagues share what Roy has meant to them and to the nursing profession. President Ann McElaney-Johnson had this to say: “Sister Callista Roy is a legend. She’s a dynamic teacher. She’s a creative mind. She’s a force…Not only has she changed the face of nursing, she’s changed the lives of so many Mount students and alums who have gone into their communities and entered the healthcare profession.”

Roy’s home

This Mount Magazine story from 2018 celebrates Roy’s return to her alma mater, offers a behind-the-scenes look at how she developed her groundbreaking model and shares her thoughts on the future of nursing education: “More and more nurses are doing primary care, and soon our families will be dealing directly with nurses to keep healthy,” Roy predicted. “The future of education has to do with providing more well-educated nurses who are going to be able to take on more complex roles and become leaders so that they can help shape the future of the healthcare system.”