Nursing Models, Theories & Ethics

About this Library Guide...

Welcome to the RGO Library & Learning Commons (LLC) guide for nursing and medical ethics, theories and models (including resources for Duffy's Quality-Care Model and King's Theory of Goal Attainment)

This guide is designed to help students find resources to complete assignments on these important topics by:

  1. Finding background and introductory information in reference sources (such as dictionaries and encyclopedias)
  2. Searching the online library catalogue and databases for books, e-books, and articles published in scholarly journals
  3. Verifying sources are scholarly and peer-reviewed

Nursing Definitions

A model is a conceptual framework or tool used to represent and understand a complex phenomenon or situation.

From a nursing perspective, a nursing theory or model is thus "a set of stated principles about nursing which gives professionals a way of formulating a plan of care, assessing its success and addressing any problems which arise from it" ("Nursing model," 2008). 

Nursing models and theories are used to "identify, describe and explain a range of nursing concepts" and are often "named after the nurse theorists who first propounded them" ("Nursing models," 2006).

Examples of nursing models include:

  • Duffy's Quality-Caring Model
  • Watson's Theory of Caring
  • King's Theory of Goal Attainment
  • Parse's Theory of Human Becoming
  • Leventhal & Johnson's Theory of Self-Regulation
  • Rogers' Science of Unitary Human Beings
  • Benner's Professional Advancement Model
  • Orem's Self-Care Deficit Nursing Theory
  • Corbin & Strauss' Chronic Illness Trajectory Framework
  • Gordon's Functional Health Patterns


Nursing model. (2008). In P. Collin (Ed.), Dictionary of medical terms. London, United Kingdom: A&C Black. Retrieved from

Nursing models. (2006). In C. Brooker (Ed.), Churchill Livingstone's dictionary of nursing. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Health Sciences. Retrieved from

Ethics is a branch of philosophy with the broad aim of determining "what we ought to be doing" and "the principles that guide us in deciding right from wrong" ("Ethics," 2007). In professional settings such as nursing and healthcare, ethics refers to a "commitment that refers to some overriding value that defines both expertise and service" (Goldman, 2001).

The Churchill Livingston's Dictionary of Nursing defines ethics as "the study of the code of moral principles derived from a system of values and beliefs and concerned with rights and obligations" involving issues such as "abortion, confidentiality, consent, euthanasia, research etc" ("Ethics," 2006). 

Many ethical theories and frameworks have been developed, partly in response to issues arising from contemporary changes in healthcare; notable examples include:

  • Deontology
  • Consequentalism
  • Principalism
  • Virtue Ethics
  • Utilitarianism


Ethics. (2006). In C. Brooker (Ed.), Churchill Livingstone's dictionary of nursing. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Health Sciences. Retrieved from

Ethics. (2007). In Z. O'Leary, The social science jargon-buster. London, United Kingdom: Sage. Retrieved from

Goldman, A. (2001). Professional ethics. In L. Becker and C. Becker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of ethics. London, United Kingdom: Routledge. Retrieved from

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