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The purpose of this study is to develop – from the patients' perspective - a tentative theoretical model explaining the effectiveness of inpatient nursing care of adolescents diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.The continuous and direct involvement of nurses with patients is likely to play a significant role in the recovery process of patients with anorexia nervosa. However, only limited evidence is available on what patients with anorexia nervosa themselves consider important and effective in terms of nursing care.The design of this study was qualitative.A grounded theory approach was applied where 13 adolescents with anorexia nervosa were interviewed to generate data for the model.Participants stated that nurses contributed significantly to their recovery from anorexia nervosa. Three recurring themes emerged from the data: (1) normalisation, (2) structure and (3) responsibility. The focus of nursing care with respect to these themes shifted during the phases of recovery.Based on patients' experiences a theoretical model is developed describing effective nursing care of adolescents diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Patients identified the key components of this model as essential to their weight recovery.The model may be used to improve the quality of nursing care of adolescents diagnosed with anorexia nervosa through analysis of current practice with respect to the key components of our model. Interventions that are based on these components closely follow the patients' needs.