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Afaf Ibrahim Meleis - Transition Theory of Nursing

Essay by Amie Wheeler  •  February 10, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  1,150 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,051 Views

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Afaf Ibrahim Meleis- Transition Theory of Nursing


The Transition theory of nursing seeks to identify those individuals experiencing life changes and then assisting those patients with health promotion. Transition, or changes in lifestyle, can impact a client’s health in a variety of ways, and clients also experience change in a variety of ways. By recognizing these times of transition, nurses can develop appropriate interventions for their clients which assist them in achieving positive outcomes.  

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Biographical Information 

Afaf Ibrahim Meleis was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1942. It was from the influence and admiration of her mother that she looked to pursue the nursing profession. She graduated from the University of Alexandria in 1961, earned an MS in nursing in 1964, an MA in sociology in 1966 and a PhD in medical and social psychology in 1968 from the University of California, Los Angeles (Alligood & Tomey, 2010). With the development of support groups around the 1960’s, it was then that Meleis saw that there was a distinct lack of services available to help those going through difficult health events, in making sure that health outcomes were successful (Meleis, 2010).

Transition Theory is significant because Meleis developed it at a time when nursing was experiencing a rapid change from vocational based to professional based, and in a time when nursing science was emerging (Alligood & Tomey, 2010).  In creating the transition theory, she looked to capitalize on the important critical thinking skills needed by nurses to recognize those times when clients were transitioning, thus choosing those optimal moments that interventions could then take place (Chick & Meleis, 1986).

Essential Components of the Theory
        Meleis’s Transitions theory is classified as a middle range level of theory. While the theory is specific, it is always changing, and dependent on the patient and type of transition they are going through. Developmental, health and illness, situational, and organizational transitions are all a focus of Afaf’s theory (Masters, 74). Middle-range theories are also more narrow, and less abstract. The transitions theory qualifies as being narrow because Meleis believed each transition to have their own properties such as awareness, engagement, time span, change and difference, critical points and events, which make the theory more specific and detailed.

In the transition theory, the person plays a vital role. Nurses interact with people on a daily basis who are all experiencing transitions of some sort related to well-being, self-care and health. Clients are experiencing an event that is a critical point in their life, such as becoming a new mother, being diagnosed with a life changing illness, or dealing with a death of a loved one. The theory takes into consideration that all clients are unique and will interpret their transition in different ways, and attach meaning to those experiences. The nurse must assess how the individual perceives their change and develop therapeutics geared toward that perception, assessing for feedback along the way (Chick & Meleis, 1986).


Meleis saw the client’s environment as an integral part of their transition success. Whether the client was transitioning back home after a major surgery or illness, or the client was transitioning to a skilled nursing or long term care facility. Meleis believes that environmental conditions could expose clients to potential damage, problems in recovery and a delayed coping experience.


There are many variables which help to shape individual experiences and outcomes. While change has the potential harmful impact on the health of the individual, not all individuals experience the same change in the same way.  Socioeconomic status, cultural beliefs, and education level can all affect potential health related outcomes (Meleis, et al., 2000).



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