• holistic;
  • illness;
  • model;
  • nursing care;
  • stroke experience

This article describes a model we developed to guide the selection and design of nursing activities that will facilitate the health of persons with stroke and their families. Care in the context of stroke has been structured by the medical model's focus on functional ability. As a result, nursing is viewed as ancillary to other professions; yet, studies of the stroke experience from the patient's view suggest that distinctive nursing interventions are needed. Current models of illness do not sufficiently address the nature of stroke and thus cannot serve as a framework for nursing care. Our model conceptualizes stroke as a progressive, holistic experience with physiological, psychological, and social dimensions. It was developed from a synthesis of research articles identified through searches of CINAHL, MEDLINE, and PSYCHLIT (1980–1999) indexes using the terms “stroke,” “stress,” “coping,” “chronic illness,” and “transitions and growth” and from our clinical experiences. Our research established that the stroke experience involves the deterioration of the whole person and the development of a new person through discovery and resynthesis. Each of these processes progressively dominates the experience and together they form a three-phase model. This model of the stroke experience suggests that nursing care should focus initially on limiting deterioration and then concentrate on facilitating growth. Selection of specific interventions requires an understanding of the uniqueness of each stroke experience, as well as the commonalities, among these experiences.