Dorothea E. Orem Self-Care Deficit Theory of Nursing


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Orem developed her theory in the 1950’s when most nursing concepts drew from psychology, sociology, and medicine. This theory is in three-fold comprising self-care, self-care deficit, and nursing systems. In the theory of self-care, adults learn and act intentionally to ensure their survival, well-being, and good quality life. In the self-care deficit theory, the importance of nursing is highlighted because humans have limitations to performing self-care. In the nursing systems theory, the nurses use the nursing process to meet the healthcare needs of individuals as well as developing their capabilities in self-care (Taylor & Renpenning, 2003; Hartweg, 1991).

This theory relates to the nursing metaparadigm in different ways. This theory regards the person as a recipient of nursing care, has capacity for knowledge and learning potential. There are environmental conditions, including external and psychosocial. It also offers a developmental environment where personal development is encouraged through motivation. Nursing is considered as help for oneself and others, which is required on urgency, and has a patient as the agent. Finally, there is the aspect of health maintenance and promotion and emphasizes on the responsibilities of both RN and patient in self-care (Tomey & Alligood, 2002).

One of the strengths of Orem is that it is specific on when nursing is essential. It also provides a foundation receptive for nursing practice, and applies professional nursing in the nursing process, administration, education, and research. Finally, it presents a modern method with concepts of health maintenance and promotion. The weakness of this theory is that it only focuses on illness and disregards the fact that health is not static (Fawcett, 2000).

Orem’s model can be used in nursing diagnosing and prescription. For example, in a self-care demand of hazards such as spouse abuse, the victim will be diagnosed with injuries, and the method of helping will include personal development, as well as guiding and directing.


Fawcett, J. (2000). Analysis and Evaluation of Contemporary Nursing Knowledge: Nursing

Models and Theories. Philadelphia: F. A. Davis Co.

Hartweg, D. (1991). Dorothea Orem: Self-Care Deficit Theory. New York: Sage.
Taylor, S. & Renpenning, L. (2003). Self- Care Theory in Nursing: Selected Papers of Dorothea

Orem. London: Springer Publishing Company.

Tomey, A. & Alligood, M. (2002). Significance of theory for nursing as a discipline and

profession: Nursing Theorists and their work. Mosby, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

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