Chapter 14: Self-care deficit theory of nursing

Chapter 14: Self-care deficit theory of nursing

Violeta A. Berbiglia, Barbara Banfield*

PowerPoit by Dr. Sergio Osegueda

Dorothea E. Orem (1914–2007)

“Nursing is practical endeavor, but it is practical endeavor engaged in by persons who have specialized theoretic nursing knowledge with developed capabilities to put this knowledge to work in concrete situations of nursing practice.” (Orem, 2001)

Credentials and background of the theorist

Dorothea Elizabeth Orem was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1914.

She began her nursing career at Providence Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, DC, where she received a diploma of nursing in the early 1930s.

Orem received a bachelor of science degree in Nursing Education from Catholic University of America (CUA) in 1939, and she received a master’s of science degree in Nursing Education from the same university in 1946.


Orem’s early nursing experiences included operating room nursing, private duty nursing (home and hospital), hospital staff nursing on pediatric and adult medical and surgical units, evening supervisor in the emergency room, and biological science teaching.

Orem held the directorship of both the nursing school and the Department of Nursing at Providence Hospital, Detroit, from 1940 to 1949. After leaving Detroit, she spent 8 years (1949–1957) in Indiana working at the Division of Hospital and Institutional Services of the Indiana State Board of Health.

In 1957, Orem moved to Washington, DC, to take a position at the Office of Education, U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, as a curriculum consultant. From 1958 to 1960, she worked on a project to upgrade practical nurse training.

That project stimulated a need to address the question: What is the subject matter of nursing? As a result, Guides for Developing Curricula for the Education of Practical Nurses was developed (Orem, 1959).


In 1970, Orem left CUA and began her consulting firm. Orem’s first published book was Nursing: Concepts of Practice (Orem, 1971).

She was editor for the NDCG as they prepared and later revised Concept Formalization in Nursing: Process and Product (NDCG, 1973, 1979).

In 2004 a reprint of the second edition was produced and distributed by the International Orem Society for Nursing Science and Scholarship (IOS). Subsequent editions of Nursing: Concepts of Practice were published in 1980, 1985, 1991, 1995, and 2001. Orem retired in 1984 and continued developing the self-care deficit nursing theory (SCDNT).

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