Dorothea Orem is one of America’s foremost nursing theorists. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1914. Orem started her nursing career at Providence Hospital School of Nursing in Washington D.C., where she received a diploma of nursing in the early 1930’s. Dorothea Orem later completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in the Catholic University of America in 1939 and in 1946, she received her Master of Science degree in Nursing Education from the same university.
Dorothea Orem’s early nursing experiences included operating room nursing, private duty nursing, hospital staff nursing on pediatric and adult medical-surgical units, evening supervisor in the emergency room, and biological science teaching. Orem held directorship of both the nursing school and the department of nursing at Providence Hospital, Detroit, from 1940 to 1949. After leaving Detroit, she lived in Indiana and worked in the Division of Hospital and Institutional Services of the Indiana State Board of Health. She had a goal to upgrade the quality of nursing in general hospitals throughout the state. It was during this time that Dorothea Orem developed her definition of nursing practice.
In 1957, Orem moved to Washington, D.C. to take a position at the Office of Education, US Department of Health, Education and Welfare as curriculum consultant. She worked on a project to upgrade practical nurse training that stimulated a need to address the question: What is the subject matter of nursing? This led to the development of “Guides for Developing Curricula for the Education of Practical Nurses” on 1959. Later that year, Orem became an assistant professor of nursing education at CUA. She subsequently served as acting dean of the School of Nursing and an associate professor of nursing education. She continued to develop her concepts of nursing and self care at CUA.
Orem left CUA in 1970 and began her own consulting firm. Her first published book in 1971 was Nursing: Concepts of Practice. She was editor of the NDCG as they prepared and later revised Concept Formalization in Nursing Process and Product (NDCG, 1972, 1979). She was given Honorary Doctorates of Science from both Georgetown University in 1976 and Incarnate Word College in 1980. She was given an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1988, and a Doctorate Honoris Causae from the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1998. Dorothea Orem died on June 22, 2007 at her home on Skidaway Island.
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