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Roy Model's early days

Alums share their memories of Sr. Callista Roy and the early days of the Roy Adaptation Model

April 6, 2018

The nursing class of 1973 with Sister Callista Roy, far right.
The nursing class of 1973 with Sister Callista Roy, far right.



Marilyn (Baumgartner) Shirk ’73
Retired after 44 years as mental health clinical nurse specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles

I have treasured my MSMC education and eagerly endorse the MSMU program. I recently retired after 44 years of nursing. The last 37 years were at Cedars-Sinai as the Mental Health CNS, (the last 33 years were in the role of Nursing Liaison). I went from thinking nursing would be something I could do because I liked working with people and liked science to being completely captivated by Sister Callista’s vision of the role that nurses and nursing could make on the health and wellbeing of others. It was transformative.

In 1971, during our introduction to Nursing, I went from thinking nursing would be something I could do because I liked working with people and liked science to being completely captivated by Sr. Callista’s vision of the role that nurses and nursing could make on the health and well-being of others. From then on I was committed to being a good nurse more than getting the grade. It was transformative.

The Roy adaptation model is the way I think as a nurse. I couldn’t articulate all the modes but I sure understand focal, contextual and residual stimuli!! I have focused my practice in psychiatric/mental health nursing since 1975. The Adaptation Model has always been useful in how I approach others and caring for them (assessing, planning and intervening) as a direct care nurse initially and then as a CNS and mental health consultant.

The most memorable moments I had with Sr. Callista were:

  • In the intro to nursing class she told us about her own experience as a patient, the loss of privacy in particular. It has stuck with me all these years because it was in that moment I understood one of the most important aspects of being a good nurse… to try to understand the patient’s experience in order to help them cope and to heal.
  • On Feb. 9, 2012, Sister Callista was speaking at UCLA School of Nursing event as a Distinguished Alumna. I brought my 1973 MSMC nurses’ cap and asked her to sign it, which she did most graciously. She is a Living Legend and I feel so fortunate to have had her as my first nursing instructor!


Carol Henderson Nelson ’73
Director of Education, Cottage Health Systems
Santa Barbara, Calif.

As I student, I respected Sr. Callista – and knew that we were the first group to use her Adaptation Theory.  From the beginning it seemed a comprehensive; holistic approach to care for the needs of our patients. I felt pride being a nursing student from the Mount. Mount St Mary’s was a recognized beacon in the LA community for excellence in nursing education. I recognized that I had a wonderful opportunity.

At the time – I was so excited to be accepted in the nursing program – I was naïve to the broader professional perspective. In essence I was unaware that this was not “the way” to be a nurse.  And certainly not aware that Sr. Callista was making a mark in nursing history!

My career has had emphasis with patient and staff education. During my years as a Certified Diabetes Educator, I found that my patient interactions applied and relied on skills gained with the Adaptation Theory. The holistic approach aligned with my values and I found I was able to use/ apply it with ease and confidence while aiming for the best possible patient outcome. It just became the way I cared for patients.

Recently, one of my colleagues at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital was eager to leave early to go to L.A. for a lecture. When I asked who she was going to see, she said Sr. Callista Roy. It was great fun to share that I was in her first class using the  Adaptation Theory and indeed she was dean of our nursing program then.   

Certainly now I understand what a pioneer Sr. Callista Roy was in 1973!  She helped lead the way for critical thinking with strategies that define our profession and demonstrate the unique role of a registered nurse.  


Karen Macey Jackson ’73
Retired, after 43 years in nursing
Previously supervising public health nurse for County of Orange

I remember hearing about Sr. Roy, even before she taught me. She was already famous. I remember thinking how tiny she was (I am 5’7”). I remember hearing our A&P professor, Dr. Schwanzara, say that only half of us would make it through her class. I was hoping I would make it. I did. I remember feeling very lonely. My mom had died the year before. That led to my interest in nursing. I knew no one at MSMC. I had a very small scholarship and worked part time on campus to help pay tuition. I had great roommates and suitemates at Carondelet Hall. I remember the lengthy assessments we wrote, including Physical, Psychosocial, Emotional. Very thorough, time consuming and all long hand. I had no typewriter. We used the Dewey Decimal card system for research in the library!

When I graduated with my BSN degree, there were so many job opportunities. I don’t think I realized how special my education was until I heard comments like, “You had Sr. Callista Roy as a teacher!” or “You used the ‘Roy’ model!” I was looked at as very lucky and well-educated. I worked at CHOC for 11 years and my Roy assessment came in handy as I dealt with infants, children and their families.

I have had many jobs in my 43-year nursing career. My education at the Mount was a big part of why I was successful, not just as a clinical nurse with my patients but as a supervisor with my staff in Public Health.

I think the Roy Model taught me to be both a good listener and observer, both beneficial skills. People tell me I am very patient, calm and a good listener. I think I have tried to look at the world and people through the “Roy” lens. I see the whole person, am interested in their history, their present circumstances. I actually care about everyone as a unique person.

I feel very blessed and grateful to call myself a Mount graduate. I received a great education and have lifelong friendships. I didn’t really want to go to the Mount. I wanted to go to CSLB or San Diego State. Then I got the small scholarship, my dad said, “It’s closer to home, give it a year and if you don’t like it, you can transfer.” I loved it and never left. One of my best life decisions.