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This article describes transition theory as it relates to a qualitative study of women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and the importance of this theory in nursing practice. Rheumatoid arthritis is prototypical of many chronic illnesses because it has a profound impact on activities of daily living. It frequently occurs during a person's most productive years and continues throughout life. Because a person with RA typically experiences a number of exacerbations and remissions over the course of many years, transition theory was chosen as a framework for this study. The study sample consisted of 30 women with RA, who were interviewed about their experiences of living with this chronic illness. The women described four distinct phases in learning to live with RA, which began with awareness and proceeded to mastery. These findings are consistent with the stages of transition described by other investigators.