Myra Levine
Conservation Model
Courtney Jones, Sarah Rousseau, Marijo Johnson
Historical Evolution of Model
“Although she never intended to
develop theory, she provided an
organizational structure for teaching
medical-surgical nursing and a
stimulus for theory development
(Stafford, 1996)”
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 226)
Myra Levine has published a number of
works including:
Introduction to Clinical Nursing - the first
edition in 1969 and the second edition in
1973 (1973 edition written as a text book
for beginning nursing students)
Holistic Nursing - addressed the
consequences of the four conservation
The Four Conservation Principles: Twenty
Years Later - included substantial change
and clarification about her theory
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 226)
Myra Levine’s Conservation Model
“Focuses on conservation of the
person’s wholeness. Adaptation is
the process by which people maintain
their wholeness or integrity as they
respond to changes in their
environment and become congruent
with their environment”
(Kearney-Nunnery, 2008, p. 27)
“The way complex systems are able to
function even when severely
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 229)
Three Major concepts to
Levine’s Conservation Model
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 227)
Levine borrowed Katie Erikson’s description of wholeness
“Wholeness emphasizes a sound, organic,
progressive mutuality between diversified
functions and parts within and entirety,
the boundaries of which are open and
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 227)
“The process of change where by the
individual retains his integrity within
the realities of his internal and
external environment”
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 227)
Three Sources of environment
Perceptual Environment: part of the
environment that individuals respond with
the sense organs
Operational Environment: Aspects of the
environment that are not directly perceived
(cannot see, hear, feel or smell)
Conceptual Environment: Language,
ideas, symbols, concepts and inventions
(Kearney-Nunnery, 2008, p. 57)
Perceptual Environment
Part of the environment that
individuals respond to with the
sense organs
(Kearney-Nunnery, 2008. p.57)
Operational Environment
Aspects of the environment that
are not directly perceived (cannot
see, hear, feel or smell)
(Kearney-Nunnery, 2008. p.57)
Conceptual Environment
Language, ideas, symbols,
concepts and inventions
(Kearney-Nunnery, 2008. p.57)
Nurse’s Goal
“End dependence as soon as
(Kearney-Nunnery, 2008, p. 37)
Alternative to nursing diagnosis.
Scientific method of reaching a
nursing care judgement
Assessment and interventions are
based on four major principles
Principle #1
Conservation of Energy
Being able to complete activities without excessive
May include the assessment of:
Vitals signs
Breathing patterns
(Kearney-Nunnery, 2008, 57)
Tolerance for required
nursing interventions
Activity tolerance level
Conservation of Energy
Provides the framework to assess the
patients ability to participate in care;
provide individualized interventions to
meet the patient’s needs and initiate
measures to restore independence
Principle #2
Conservation of Personal Integrity
Conservation of personal integrity puts into
prospective that a persons personal identity and
self worth are noteworthy and need to be
addressed to assist a person to the highest
degree of adaptation possible.
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 229)
Conservation of Personal Integrity
A nurse must assess a persons feeling of self
worth and integrity and integrate interventions to
assist a person to attaining the highest level of self
Assessments should be designed to detect signs
and symptoms of depression, anxiety and feelings
of uselessness
Nursing interventions should be based on
assisting the patient to achieve goals that will
enhance his / her level of self esteem, self worth
and feelings of usefulness; assisting in obtaining
optimal psychosocial adaptation
Principle #3
Conservation of Social
Life gains meaning through social
communities and health is socially
(Alligood & Tomey, 2008, p. 229)
Conservation of Social Integrity
A nurse must assess a patients interactions
with family, social community, significant
others, work and school
Once the nurse can identify the patient’s
need to be socially involved; the nurse can
provide interventions to assist the person
to maintain or achieve the role in the
community that fulfills the patients level of
Interventions will assist the patient to
obtain optimal psychosocial adaptation
Principle #4
Conservation of Structural Integrity
Process of restoring physical functioning to
regain wholeness
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 229)
Conservation of Structural Integrity
This principle encompasses the head to
toe physical assessment.
Early recognition of patient decline or
complications can prevent further injury
This also would incorporate safety
assessments and interventions to ensure
that patients do not fall or sustain
nosocomial infections during their hospital
Interventions will assist the patient to
optimal physiological adaptation
Therapeutic: May influence
adaptation favorably
Supportive: Cannot change the
course but rather maintain status quo,
or prevent a decline in status
(Kearney-Nunnery, 2008, p. 58)
Through the Organismic Response
The evaluation of the interventions
can be determined via the patients
organismic response (Kearney-Nunnery, 2008, p.58):
Fight / flight
Inflammatory response
Response to stress
Perceptual awareness
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 228)
View of the patient in a holistic
view with integrity meaning
freedom if choice and movement
Includes: Identity and self worth
Refers to the person as a “system
of systems”
Refers to wholeness as the
“expression of all contribution of
parts and systems
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, pp.230-231)
“Health is socially
determined by the ability to
function in a reasonably
normal manner”
“Social groups predetermine
“the ability to return to one
self and pursue interests in
the context of one’s own
“Each person has his own
environment which includes
internal (physiological and
pathophysiological) and external
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 227)
The metaparadigms of
Levine’s nursing
model encompass
identifying the person
as an individual within
a unique environment.
Nursing services focus
on restoring
including mind, body
and soul.
Unique Concepts
Incorporates wholeness, adaptation, and
conservation to address patient needs.
Focuses on the individuals organismic response in
the face of illness/disease, via fight or flight,
inflammatory response to stress, perceptual
Uses trophicognosis as an alternative to nursing
Encourages nurses to consider all 4 principles of
conservation with each intervention to facilitate
viewing the individual as a whole
(Alligood &Tomey, 2010)
Clinical practice
Levine’s Theory encompasses the person as a whole
Her assessment strategy takes into consideration the
patient as a mind, body and soul, with the philosophy
of all systems working together to make a whole
“Treatment focuses on managing the flight fight
response, inflammatory response, response to stress
and perceptual awareness”
(Alligood &Tomey, 2010, p. 228)
Use of the Conservation Theory
The conservation theory has been
used in many clinical specialties
Long Term Care
Emergency Care
Critical Care
Homeless Communities
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 232)
Case Study
Mrs. Jones is a 45 year old women with
breast cancer. She has been
admitted to the hospital for a bilateral
mastectomy. Mrs. Jones is married,
but in the process of getting a divorce. She is
the mother of 2 children and
has not been in the work force out of the
home for several years.
Personal Integrity: Body image
disturbance; Inability to care for
Structural Integrity: Wound healing,
Social Integrity: Potentially strained
relationship with husband
Wound management
Potential low self esteem
Teaching: wound care, follow up
Explore need for assistance with
home needs to help with children
MSW consult for divorce and / cancer
support group
Energy Conservation
Pain management
Allow for frequent rest periods
Activity as tolerated
Monitor vital signs
Personal Integrity
Explore body image
Discuss the need for assistance at
Provide privacy dignity and respect
Structural Integrity
Wound care
Nutritional intake
Concurrent treatments
Physiological response to concurrent
Social Integrity
Encourage visits from children and
Offer options for divorce support
groups and cancer survivor groups
Encourage interactions with church or
other social support groups which the
patient is involved
Fight / Flight: Are vital signs acceptable;
Assess for effective coping mechanisms
Inflammatory response: Is the wound
healing; review and assess labs
Response to stress: assess nutritional
intake; review interactions with significant
Perceptual awareness: How is the patient
adapting to her new body configuration; is
she seeking knowledge for follow up care?
Educational Benefit
“Wrote the textbook Introduction to Clinical
Nursing for beginning nursing students and
introduced new material into the curricula
for new students”
“Gives new nursing students the bases for
scientific principles behind nursing
“Some critics states that this text should be
used as a supplement and not the primary
text because it requires extensive
knowledge of physical and social sciences”
(Alligood & Tomey, 2008, p. 231)
Current Research Status
No current research on model itself, however
“Many nursing researchers and practitioners adopt
Levine’s model because the conservation
principles provide a scientific and researchoriented approach to the majority of nursing
interventions. Furthermore, as a theoretical
framework, the rules of conservation and integrity
are applicable to all aspects of nursing, from
clinical practice to administration. As such, the
conservation principles help anticipate and predict
all fields of nursing practice by placing
independent information into an organized
framework.” (Leach, 2010)
Areas currently using Levine model in research
include: nursing care for preterm infants, cancer
patients, CHF, weaning vented patients, postanesthetic recovery, and pre-op, along with many
Areas currently using Levine model
in research include:
nursing care for preterm infants
cancer patients,
weaning vented patients
post-anesthetic recovery
along with many others.
According to Levine herself,
“Several research projects using the Conservation
Principles have demonstrated that it is a useful
approach to bringing sound science to nursing
knowledge. I think that will continue and grow from
strength to strength. The underlying science
principles from adjunctive disciplines which I have
always felt were basic to the Conservation
Principles have increased exponentially in the past
thirty years and there is no reason to believe it
won’t continue. That can only increase the
research possibilities.” (Levine, 1996, p. 41)
Strengths of the Conservation Model
Clarity – “… Levine’s Conservation Model
provides nursing with a logically congruent,
holistic view of the person (p. 189)” “the
theory directs nursing actions that lead to
favorable outcomes (p. 237)”
Simplicity – “…this model is still one of the
simpler ones developed”
Generality – “The four conservation
principles can be used in all nursing
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 233)
Conservation Model Limitations
“Despite the comprehensiveness and wide
application of Levine’s theory, the model is not
without limitation. For example, Levine’s
conservation model focuses on illness as opposed
to health; thus, nursing interventions are limited to
addressing only the presenting condition of an
individual. Hence, nursing interventions under
Levine’s theory have a present and short-term
focus and do not support health promotion
principles, even though health promotion is an
essential component of current nursing practice.
Thus, Levine’s model does not add support to the
use of interventions that prevent ulcer occurrence
and reoccurrence in susceptible individuals.”
(Leach, 2010)
New Insights
This model, originally developed
to teach new nursing students,
has evolved into a model used
throughout nursing practice
“It has been the basis for several doctoral
dissertations and various studies by seasoned
investigators. Clinicians use the model, most
commonly, to guide them in an orderly way as they
assess the patient and gather the "provocative
facts."”… “Educators find the process useful for
curriculum development and to teach the
principles of health and well being.
Administratively, they have been used to identify
process and outcome criteria, to evaluate the
quality of care rendered and as a guide for staff
development. (Schaefer, Pond, Levine, Fawcell,
1991, pp 38-40.)” (Emerita, 1996)
“The model is logically congruent, is
externally and internally consistent,
has breadth as well as depth, and is
understood, with few exceptions, by
professionals and consumers of
health care. Nurses using the
Conservation Model can anticipate,
explain, predict, and perform patient
care.” (Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p. 234)
Myra Levine
Conservation Model
“…everywhere that nursing is
essential, the rules of the
conservation and the integrity hold
(p. 195)“
(Alligood & Tomey, 2010, p.234)
Alligood M, R. & Tomey A, M. (2010). Nursing theorists and their
work. (7th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier
Emerita, P. (1996). In tribute: Myra Levine. Chart, 93(3), 1.
Retrieved from
Kearney-Nunnery, R. (2008). Advancing your career : Concepts of
professional nursing. (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis
Leach, M. J. (2010). Wound Management: Using Levine’s
Conservation Model to Guide Practice. Ostomy Wound
Management, 52(8), 1. Retrieved from
Levine, M. E. (1996). The Conservation Principles: A Retrospective.
Nursing Science Quarterly. 9(38). doi:

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