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Dorothea Elizabeth Orem was born and brought up in Baltimore, Maryland. Orem attended Seton High School in Baltimore, and graduated in 1931. She received a diploma from the Providence Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, D.C. in 1934 and went on to the Catholic University of America to earn a B.S. in Nursing Education in 1939, and an M.S. in Nursing Education in 1945. Her earliest years in nursing were spent in practice at Providence Hospital, Washington, D.C. (1934-1936, 1942) and St. John’s Hospital, Lowell, Massachusetts (1936-1937). After receiving advanced degrees, Orem focused primarily on teaching, research, and administration. She served as director of the Providence Hospital School of Nursing in Detroit, Michigan from 1945 to 1948, where she also taught biological sciences and nursing (1939-1941). At the Catholic University of America, Orem served as Assistant Professor (1959-1964), Associate Professor (1964-1970), and Dean of the School of Nursing (1965-1966).

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As a curriculum consultant, Orem worked with schools, departments and divisions of nursing in universities and colleges including The University of Alberta, George Brown College of Applied Arts and Technology, The University of Southern Mississippi, Georgetown University, Incarnate Word College, El Paso Community College, The Medical College of Virginia, and The Washington Technical Institute. She also served as curriculum consultant to The Office of Education, United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Practical Nurse Section in 1958, 1959, and 1960, to the Division of Hospital and Institutional Services, The Indiana State Board of Health from 1949 to 1957, and to the Center for Experimentation and Development in Nursing, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1969-1971, and to the Director of Nursing, Wilmer Clinic, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1975-1976.

In 1971 Orem published Nursing: Concepts of Practice, the work in which she outlines her theory of nursing, the Self-care Deficit Theory of Nursing. The success of this work and the theory it presents established Orem as a leading theorist of nursing practice and education. Nursing: Concepts of Practice is now in its sixth edition. She also served as chairperson of the Nursing Development Conference Group, and in 1973 edited that group’s work in the book Concept Formalization in Nursing. She authored many other papers and during the 1970s and 1980s spoke at numerous conferences and workshops around the world. The International Orem Society was founded to foster research and the continued development of Orem’s theories of nursing. During her life, Dorothea Orem received accolades for her contributions to the field of nursing, including honorary degrees from Georgetown University, Incarnate Word College, Illinois Wesleyan University, and the University of Missouri-Columbia. She was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing, and received awards from the National League for Nursing and the Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society.

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Scope and Content

The Dorothea E. Orem Collection consists of teaching and consulting records, correspondence, biographical and personal records, research materials, publications, and audio-visual materials relating to Orem’s life and work. These papers document the development of Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Nursing Theory and General Theory of Nursing. The research, teaching, publication, and consulting records all provide a chronological basis for understanding this development as well as the dissemination of the Theory.

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Sarah E. Allison Collection

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Constance Cole Waxter Collection

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