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Sarah Allison was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She graduated from the Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing in 1953, and received the Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University, McCoy College in 1959. During this time, she worked at the Johns Hopkins Hospital as a staff and head nurse in the Outpatient Department, and as supervisor in the Emergency and Surgical Nursing departments. In 1963, she completed a masters degree in Administration of Nursing Education from Catholic University in Washington, DC. While a graduate student at Catholic University, she began working with Dorothea Orem. From 1968-1984, she was a member of the Nursing Development Conference Group, which contributed toward the development of Orem’s Self-care Deficit Nursing Theory (SCDNT) and published the book Concept Formalization in Nursing: Process and Product in 1973. Allison earned her EdD from Teacher’s College at Columbia University in 1968, specializing in medical-surgical nursing, nursing research, curriculum and teaching.

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In 1967, Allison proposed the establishment of a center focused on the development of nursing practice at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1968, she became the Associate Director of the Center for Experimentation and Development in Nursing (CEDN). Orem’s conceptualizations about nursing provide the framework for the CEDN, and it served as the first test site for the Orem theory. The work of CEDN was interrupted in 1972 when 3 of its key staff were in a car accident, killing Joan Backscheider and Mary Collins and injuring Sarah Allison. CEDN closed in 1974 but some of its activities continued in the Wilmer Eye Clinic where Sarah Allison served as Clinical Director of Nursing from 1975 to 1976. She also served as an Instructor in Nursing for the Johns Hopkins University Evening College and Assistant Professor in the Nursing Education Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Health Services. Allison was active with the Johns Hopkins Nurses Alumnae Association, serving on its Board of Directors and as its representative to the Advisory Board of the Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing from 1966-1975.

She moved to Jackson, Mississippi in 1976 to be the Vice President for Nursing Administration at the Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital and Center, where she also implemented SCDNT. After retiring in 1990, she continued as a consultant on nursing and nursing administration using Orem’s theory. In 1991, Allison was one of the founders of the International Orem Society for Nursing Science and Scholarship, which serves as a forum on SCDNT, serving as its Vice President until 1998. Allison also conducted research in Nursing History, including a biographical study of Anna Wolfe who had been her mentor while a nursing student at Johns Hopkins. Allison worked to preserve Dorothea Orem’s papers and related materials at the Chesney Medical Archives and funded the processing of the Dorothea Orem Collection.

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Scope and Content

This collection consists primarily of material related to Allison’s interest in Dorothea Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Nursing Theory and her involvement with the Center for Experimentation and Development in Nursing.

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Joan Backscheider Collection

Judy Crews-Hanks Collection

Dorothea Orem Collection

Constance Cole Waxter Collection

Anna Wolf Collection

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