Nursing: Transitions Theory by Afaf Ibrahim Meleis

Not many patients are able to cope with transitions associated with interventions and interactions. There are many ways to support and guide people, and the theory of transitions is one of the available options. This theory is the result of long and serious work that Afaf Ibrahim Meleis began in the mid-1960s and ended in the 1980s (Im, 2018). It aims at providing a framework to identify the experience of people who have to confront, live with, and cope with a situation that requires the development of new skills and behaviors (Meleis, 2015). Changes cannot be avoided in human life, and it is necessary to determine the factors with the help of which appropriate facilitating and inhibiting steps can be offered (Bohner, 2017). The goal of this theory is to instruct nurses on how to prepare patients and families for healthcare transitions.

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Four main types of transitions exist. Developmental transitions include the changes connected with birth, adolescence, aging, or mothering (Im, 2018). Situational transitions are based on personal experiences such as a family member’s death or rehabilitation. Health transitions incorporate a diagnosis of an unknown disease and the necessity of interventions. Organizational transitions may be caused by an unpredictable change of the environment. Transitions theory turns out to be a solution for many problems. For example, intensive care patients who deal with the outcomes of ward transfer learn how to deal with stress and gather information (Ramsay, Huby, Thompson, & Walsh, 2013). Korukcu, Deliktaş, and Kukulu (2017) explain how the mothers who must protect their infants with special care needs benefit from this theory. I think that this theory is a good chance for nurses to understand the needs of patients and for patients to be prepared for a variety of healthcare changes in their lives.

For example, there is a situation when a young man lost his wife when she gave birth to their daughter. Now, it is time to leave a hospital and begin a new life with a new person, experiencing unbelievable grief because of an unexpected loss. A nurse has to communicate with the father, carefully focusing on the main aspects of child care and the father’s emotional state. Transitions theory may serve as a good plan to develop trust and understanding between the hospital workers and the widowed father during the first several months of care. This person has to deal with two change triggers: having a baby and becoming a father (developmental) and the loss of a wife (situational). This theory helps recognize several problems and challenges. Therefore, treatment and care should be organized from several perspectives. The knowledge and awareness of how to become a father may be not enough for the man. A nurse has to think about how to support and deal with such a serious loss as well.

In general, I believe that transitions theory plays a crucial role in the development of nursing interventions. Its peculiar feature is not only the possibility for patients to recognize their needs but a great chance for nurses to understand what kind of help can be offered in and out of hospital settings. People have to deal with multiple changes and transitions in their lives, and the usefulness of this theory is the development of a clear guide, disregarding existing diversities and attitudes.


Bohner, K. (2017). Theory description, critical reflection, and theory evaluation of the transitions theory of Meleis et al according to Chinn and Kramer (2011). Advances in Nursing Science, 40(3), 1-19. Web.

Im, E. O. (2018). Afaf Ibrahim Meleis: Transitions theory. In M. R. Alligood (Ed.), Nursing theorists and their work (9th ed.) (pp. 309-322). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

Korukcu, O., Deliktaş, A., & Kukulu, K. (2017). Transition to motherhood in women with an infant with special care needs. International Nursing Review, 64(4), 593-601.

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Meleis, A. I. (2015). Transitions theory. In M. C. Smith & M. E. Parker (Eds.), Nursing theories and nursing practice (4th ed.) (pp. 361-380). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis Company.

Ramsay, P., Huby, G., Thompson, A., & Walsh, T. (2013). Intensive care survivors’ experiences of ward‐based care: Meleis’ theory of nursing transitions and role development among critical care outreach services. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 23(5-6), 605-615.

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