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The Self-Care Deficit Theory by Dorothea Orem


The modern healthcare sector is focused on the provision of outstanding care to all patients and the improvement of the quality of their lives. It means that health workers should incorporate knowledge from different areas to attain enhanced results and assist individuals in their recovery. Under these conditions, nursing theory acquires the top priority. It provides specialists with specific approaches to facilitate patients recovery and guarantee positive outcomes (Matney, Avant, & Staggers, 2016). Additionally, it encompasses knowledge from diverse research papers to create a single method that will demonstrate enhanced efficiency in complex conditions.

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Nevertheless, the self-care deficit theory introduced by Orem is one of the approaches that are used by nurses in their practice. It is focused on the comprehensive investigation of patients basic needs, health issues, and opportunities to ensure their recovery. At the moment, the theory preserves its topicality as if could be considered regarding the modern approach to the provision of care and attempts to increase patients independence by teaching them how to deal with diverse health issues (Matney et al., 2016).

For this reason, the given paper delves into the self-care deficit theory introduced by Orem and reveals its most important features. The work consists of the introduction that describes the general importance of the nursing theory; the importance of the nursing theory section that answers why it should be studied; summary of the theory providing the analysis of the selected approach; application section suggesting how the theory is used in the real-life conditions, and conclusion section summarizing all information mentioned in the document.

Importance of Nursing Theory

As has already been stated, nursing theory is one of the fundamental aspects of the healthcare sector. It helps to create a theoretical framework that guides nurses in their work and guarantees beneficial results. A common nurse faces numerous challenges that arise because of the peculiarities of the working environment and unique patients needs that should be taken into account and fulfilled to ensure their recovery (Matney et al., 2016). However, using the nursing theory, a specialist can find diverse solutions to provide care efficiently and guarantee positive outcomes. This fact also justifies the theorys inclusion in the masters program. Any modern nurse should possess information about multiple methods to promote the health of a patient and create conditions for his/her recovery.

Thus, the nursing theory provides specific knowledge that can be used in the real-life environment and applied to any case. Additionally, it contributes to the gradual increase in the level of professional skills in medical workers and the development of their ability to incorporate pieces of knowledge from different fields to attain better results. For this reason, the in-depth investigation of nursing theory becomes central to the masters program. A specialist can create the basis for his/her further development as nursing theory remains useful regarding the nursing profession. It outlines diverse methods on how to work with different sorts of patients and find the most efficient way to collaborate with them. Additionally, a nurse acquires an opportunity to use other health workers experiences in struggling against a particular disease or state. In such a way, enhanced performance and outcomes could be expected.

The nursing theory could also help to differentiate nursing and other healthcare professions. As it comes from the definition, it is an organized framework of concepts and specific purposes created to guide and monitor the practice of nursing (Matney et al., 2016). In such a way, adherence to these rules is fundamental for nurses who provide care to diverse patients. All their actions should be considered regarding this very theory which also helps to separate them from other health workers who perform other duties and follow different guidelines.

However, it is dangerous to assume that there is the only theory of nursing that could be applied to all nursing activities. The adherence to this belief will result in the appearance of numerous concerns related to the quality of the provided care and outcomes. That is why a nurse should remain informed about all relevant nursing theories and possess an enhanced understanding of the areas of their use. Only under these conditions, positive results could be attained.

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Summary of Selected Nursing Theory

Turning back to the selected self-care deficit theory, it was firstly published in 1959 by Orem. Being interested in the in-depth investigation of this issue, the author had been continuously improving his method to adapt it to new conditions and guarantee its enhanced topicality. For this reason, in 2007 the latest changes to the theory were introduced (Alligood & Tomey, 2013). At the moment, the self-deficit theory is considered a relevant approach that is recommended for nurses across the state.

Nevertheless, the basic idea of the theory is individuals ability of self-care that is central for their recovery. It is defined as a set of particular activities performed by individuals every day with the primary aim to improve their health (Jarošová, 2014). There are three basic self-care needs: universal, developmental, and therapeutic (Alligood & Tomey, 2013). In this regard, nursing care should be focused on fulfilling the described self-care deficit by educating patients and guaranteeing an appropriate level of their independence regarding self-care and health activities (Jarošová, 2014).

Like any other nursing theory, Orem’s one is concerned about four basic meta paradigms of nursing that limit the functioning of a nurse and introduce a specific framework. Thus, regarding the phenomenon of person, Orem is sure that a patient is the primary aim of any activity as his/her health should be improved by using the suggested approach. For this reason, the concept of health is also touched upon in the theory. Orem defines it as “a state characterized by soundness or wholeness of developed human structures of bodily and mental functioning” (Hartweg, 2015, p. 121).

However, every individual has his/her self-care deficit which means that his/her perspective should be used to guarantee its fulfillment and gradual improvement of the quality of life. Consequently, the concept of environment is also important. Orem is sure that a nurse should affect physical, chemical, biologic, and social contexts to ensure recovery (Hartweg, 2015, p. 125). Finally, describing the metaparadigm of nursing, the author says that all nursing actions should fall into three categories which are wholly compensatory, partly compensatory, or supportive-educative (Hartweg, 2015, p. 119). In such a way, the self-deficit theory outlines all concepts and accepts their central role in the recovery process by integrating them into the approach.

Regarding all these factors, the model preserves its topicality and demonstrates high efficiency in terms of the modern healthcare sector, it was selected for the project. Additionally, it encompasses specific knowledge from different spheres of nurses. It could be used for educational purposes to improve the understanding of basic concepts. It could also help to master professional skills and apply them in practice.


Orems theory could be applied to the concept of nurse practitioner and discussion about his/her competencies, knowledge, and activities. The approach emphasizes a practitioners central role in teaching a patient how to care for himself/herself and showing how to improve the overall state. The efficiency of this idea could be proven through several examples.

First, there are numerous areas in which access to care is complicated, and patients suffer from the limited ability to benefit from medical services. In this regard, a nurse should, first of all, teach a person how to care for himself/herself and perform some activities aimed at the improvement of the health (Zarandi, Raiesifar, & Ebadi, 2016). It becomes critical for such regions as patients will be able to fulfill their self-deficit and preserve the high quality of their lives. Otherwise, regarding the limited access to healthcare services, they will suffer from numerous diseases or other health issues.

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Another example comes from my practice. A persons inability to care for himself resulted in his numerous visits to the hospital every month. However, the application of Orems theory helped to attain positive alterations in his state as he was provided with the basic instructions on how to reorganize his environment and engage in activities that will promote his health. In such a way, a practitioner educated the patient to improve the quality of his life and reduce his need for health services.


Altogether, the nursing theory remains fundamental for the healthcare sector as it provides specialists with instructions on how to act in different situations and experiences that could be used to improve outcomes and guarantee patients recovery. Nevertheless, Orems self-care deficit theory emphasizes individuals ability to self-care that and outlines the necessity of its development by nurses. It could help to minimize diseases accidence and significantly improve the health of the nation.


Alligood, M. R., & Tomey, A. M. (2013). Nursing theorists and their work. Kidlington, UK:Elsevier Health Sciences

Hartweg, D. (2015). Dorothea Orem: Self-care deficit theory (notes on nursing theories). New York, NY:SAGE Publications.

Jarošová, D. (2014). Nursing theories and models. Web.

Matney, S. A., Avant, K., & Staggers, N. (2016). Toward an understanding of wisdom in nursing. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 21(2). Web.

Zarandi, M., Raiesifar, A., & Ebadi, A. (2016). The effect of Orem’s self-care model on quality of life in patients with migraine: A Randomized clinical trial. Acta Medica Iranica, 54(3), 159-64. Web.

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