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Expanding Consciousness

Margaret A. Newman first presented her Theory of Health as Expanding Consciousness at a nursing theory conference in 1978. Since then, it has been published in its completed form and has become an integral part of nursing practice throughout the world.

Dr. Newman first began forming her ideas about expanding consciousness while she was a student of Dr. Martha Rogers at New York University. Rogers was a preeminent nursing theorist who published her Theory of Unitary Human Beings in 1970, and that theory became the basis for Newman's theory of consciousness. During the years that Newman taught at New York University, Rogers was a colleague and mentor who encouraged Newman in her research and theory development.

Newman's theory was precipitated by a concern for people whose health conditions included disease or disability. It progressed to include everyone in spite of the presence or absence of disease or disability. The theory proposes that persons in any state of health are a part of the process of expanding consciousness. This process leads to finding a greater meaning of life and making new connections with other people and the rest of the world.


  • Health includes pathology or conditions that are considered illness.
  • Conditions of illness can be considered as a part of the total pattern of the person.
  • The pattern of the individual that shows itself as illness is foremost and exists before there are changes in structure or function.
  • The pattern of the individual will not be changed by the removal of illness.
  • If the individual is only able to show his or her pattern by becoming ill, then that is the individual's health.
  • Expansion of consciousness is health.
According to Newman, people are at one with the energy of the world and are always interacting with the energy. This process of interaction leads to the pattern of wholeness. Understanding the pattern is necessary for expanding consciousness. The pattern of the person determines the existence of disease. Since the nature of the disease exists before symptoms appear, removal of the symptoms does not change the individual pattern.

Nursing is the action of seeing people in relationship to their environments and the process of understanding consciousness. The nurse's role is to help people use their own power to manifest a greater level of consciousness. This is related to realizing the prevention and recovery from disease.

The theory also addresses the relationship between time, space and movement. She explains that time and space have a complementary relationship and that people are always changing through time.

Nursing Paradigms

  • Health and illness are combined as one. Disease on one side and non-disease on the other fuse into what can be regarded as health.
  • Nursing is a partnership between the nurse and patient in which both grow to greater levels of consciousness.
  • People are whole units and cannot be divided into parts. They are identified by their patterns of consciousness. People do not possess consciousness but are consciousness. Each person is a center of consciousness within a pattern of expanding consciousness.
  • The environment is an open system that is outside the consciousness of the individual.

Nursing Process

  • The focus of nursing is caring in the patients' health experiences.
  • Nurses help patients find meaning in their lives by identifying patterns of relating.
  • The process of intervention is really non-intervention as nurses help patients identify their patterns of intervention with the environment.
  • Nurses form relationships with patients at critical times in their lives and bond with them in meaningful ways.
  • Nurse-patient relationships have an ebb and flow as patients encounter disruption to their normal states.
  • Nurses and patients are partners in the journey toward expanding consciousness.
Dr. Newman developed her theory because she felt a need to interact with patients in a way that went beyond the mere collection of data and information that was common in a medical setting. She wanted to connect with patients in a way that made a difference to both them and her. Her interest in movement and time had its origin in rehabilitation nursing. Rather than focusing on health, she concentrated on the four concepts of movement, time, space and consciousness and placed the most importance on consciousness. Thus was born the theory of expanded consciousness. She felt that it was time for nursing to create its own answers to what it needed to know rather than seeking answers from other disciplines. The Theory of Health as Expanding Consciousness serves as a guide for all health-related organizations and through the application of the theory, inspires nurses to make a difference in their nursing practices.

Publications related to the Science of Unitary Human Beings

Why I Want To Be A Nurse
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