Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory in Nursing Practice


Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory in Nursing Practice; Nursing theory is an important component of nursing education and practice. At the moment, there are many useful nursing theories that are used in a variety of settings and practice areas. Nursing theories are important as they provide a useful framework for understanding the nurse’s role in achieving better health outcomes for patients (The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, 2014). Some nursing theories also serve to outline the core relationships between patients, nurses, and other health professionals, as well as to establish the key principles of health promotion.

The self-care deficit theory was formulated by Dorothea Orem in 2001 and has become of the most popular nursing theories in contemporary practice and education. The main principle offered in the theory is that all humans are capable of self-care and the goal of nurses is to help patients to achieve a maximum level of independence with their condition (Jarošová, 2014). This paper will aim to introduce and explain Orem’s theory of self-care deficit, as well as to outline the main principles of its application in practice settings. In addition, the paper will seek to stipulate the importance of nursing theory in general and to outline its effect on the nursing profession. The paper will thus consist of three main sections: the Importance of Nursing Theory, Summary of Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory, and Application of Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory to Practice. These sections will be followed by a conclusion, which will summarize the information presented and present a self-reflection on the studied material.

Importance of Nursing Theory

Nursing theory is now a significant part of nursing education. In essence, nursing theory represents famous theorists’ views on the nursing profession and healthcare in general. Nursing theory helps nurses understand their roles and responsibilities in the modern healthcare environment, which, in turn, can promote better patient outcomes. Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory in Nursing Practice

In the contemporary healthcare environment, nurses are required to interact with patients, as well as a variety of other professionals, which is why their exact role in the treatment process is often unclear (UTC, 2014). Nursing theory serves to support nursing practice with knowledge, presenting a “creative and systematic way of looking at the world or an aspect of it to describe, explain, predict, or control it” (UTC, 2014, p. 3). Thus, the main purpose of nursing theory is to explain the world – or the environment – in which nurses operate on a daily basis. The nursing theory consists of four key metaparadigms: person, health, environment, and nursing (UTC, 2014); it seeks to define the relationship between these metaparadigms and the influence of one concept on others. For instance, Florence Nightingale’s famous environmental theory stipulates the importance of physical, psychological, and social environment on the character and state of the patient, arguing that nurses are responsible for achieving a positive environment in order to allow their patients to heal (Jarošová, 2014). Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory in Nursing Practice

The study of nursing theory should thus be included in a master’s program as it allows students to develop a clear understanding of practices and concepts affecting the nursing profession (Matney, Avant, & Staggers, 2016). Whereas knowledge about health, diagnostics, and treatment is vital to the nursing profession, it is also important for nurses to understand their scope of responsibilities compared to other health professionals. Nursing theory offers a practical way of distinguishing nurses from other health practitioners by establishing what nursing is and what it is not (UTC, 2014). However, one possible concern regarding the application of nursing theory to the profession is that, with a variety of nursing models available, individual differences in approaches to nursing and care may arise.

Summary of Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory

The self-care deficit theory was first introduced by Orem in 1959, with the latest edition published in 2001 (Alligood & Tomey, 2013). However, the author sought to add new concepts and definitions to develop her theory until her death in 2007 (Alligood & Tomey, 2013). The key concept of Orem’s theory is self-care, which is believed to be an ability of all human beings. Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory in Nursing Practice

Orem defines self-care as activities aimed at healthy living, which are performed by individuals on a daily basis (Jarošová, 2014). Self-care behaviors are not consistent throughout life and depend on age, gender, existing health conditions, as well as on environment and family (Jarošová, 2014). Self-care requisites defined by Orem include universal (water and food intake, the balance of activity and rest, etc.), developmental, and therapeutic. According to Orem, nursing care is designed to fulfill the self-care deficit in order to bring the individual to a desirable level of independence in self-care (Jarošová, 2014).

The key focus of the theory is thus on the person and his or her capacity for self-care. The environment is viewed as a factor that might impair this capacity by impacting the person’s state. Health is perceived to be the outcome of environmental influences on the person’s capacity for self-care. Ideal health can be maintained only when the person is able and willing to fulfill all of the self-care requisites appropriate to age, gender, and developmental stage. Lastly, the nursing profession helps the person to fulfill the self-care deficit by providing treatment, education, or physical aid (Jarošová, 2014). By Orem, self-care deficit may be due to physical incapacity to perform certain actions, as well as due to the lack of a positive environment and sufficient knowledge. Therefore, the theory also stipulates the importance of prevention and education in promoting patient health.

Orem’s nursing theory was selected for this assignment as it can be applied to most of the practice settings. The versatility of the nursing theory is useful for nurse practitioners who work in various departments, as it allows adhering to a single theory throughout professional practice. As shown by Shah (2015), “In nursing practice, Orem’s theory is applicable in certain settings such as acute care units, ambulatory clinics, community, senior citizen homes, hospice, and rehabilitation center” (p. 40). Thus, it is a versatile theory that allows promoting patient health in various settings.

Application of Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory to Practice

The selected professional nursing area is nurse practitioner. Orem’s self-care deficit theory can be applied to nurse practitioners’ work as it offers a clear definition of the nurses’ role in treatment, prevention, and care. According to Orem, there are 5 actions performed by nurses to re-establish the person’s capacity for self-care: performing care actions, guiding patients, providing physical or psychological aid, ensuring positive environment for growth and development, and teaching (Jarošová, 2014). Thus, the self-care deficit theory defines and explains the roles and responsibilities of nurses while at the same time offering a clear goal of nursing care: to assist patients in achieving and maintaining an appropriate level of self-care.

For example, in caring for elderly patients, nurses are required to apply their knowledge to determine the required self-care activities that should be performed by patients. Recognizing that some of these activities are not performed by the patient, it is the nurse’s role to determine the best way to fulfill the deficit. In the person lacks the physical capacity for certain actions, the nurse can perform these actions for him or her, thus fulfilling the patient’s needs for self-care. On the other hand, if the patient lacks knowledge or guidance, the nurse must offer education.

Another example of Orem’s theory can be seen in acute care. When attending to patients in acute care, the nurse has to establish the self-care deficit that is affecting the person and find the best way to fulfill the deficit. For instance, if the person’s state is affected by an injury, the nurse should offer help in the management of the injury so that the patient could recover faster and return to normal functioning. The nurse is also required to provide information that could help the person to care for the injury after being released from acute care to promote better health outcomes.


Overall, nursing theory is important to nursing education and practice as it helps to define and understand the role of nurses in caring for the patients. Orem’s nursing theory stresses the importance of health care and sees restoring the person’s capacity for self-care as the key goal behind nursing. It offers a comprehensive view of nursing in contemporary practice settings, which is applicable to various cases and circumstances. The present assignment was helpful in learning more about nursing theory and the ways of applying it to practice. It was also useful to examine Orem’s self-care deficit theory in detail, as the knowledge gained as part of the assignment can be applied to my future work as a nurse practitioner.


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

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

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

Shah, M. (2015). Compare and contrast of grand theories: Orem’s self-care deficit theory and Roy’s adaptation model. International Journal of Nursing Didactics, 5(1), pp. 39-42.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). (2014). Theory-based nursing practice (TBNP). Web.