Betty Neuman is a nursing theorist who spent many years developing a systems model
that looks at patients from a holistic perspective. She studied theories from different
theorists and philosophers and used her education and clinical and teaching experiences
to arrive at the Neuman Systems Model that has been used as a framework for nursing
curriculum throughout the world.
Early Life and Education
Betty Neuman was born in 1924 on a farm near Lowell, a southern Ohio village near
the West Virginia border. She was a middle child with one older brother and a brother
who was younger. In addition to being an accomplished musician who played the organ,
her mother was a self-educated midwife, and Betty was always fascinated by the work
that took her away from home many days and nights. Betty's father was a farmer who
became ill and died at the age of 36. The responsibility of caring for him fell to
Betty at times, and that experience and her mother's midwifery created her interest
in nursing. She credits her rural life for teaching her self-reliance and the value
of responsibility that guided her on her later career path.
Betty attended the same one-room schoolhouse that her parents had attended and was
thrilled when she went to a high school that had a library. A good student, she was
always interested in the study of human behavior. Her first job after high school
was as an aircraft instrument technician during World War II. She later joined the
Cadet Nursing Corps, a program supervised by the United States Public Health Service
that provided accelerated nursing education to alleviate the shortage of nurses during
the war. After 18 months of training, she graduated with honors from People's Hospital
School of Nursing in Akron, Ohio, in 1947.
Nursing Career and Higher Education
After a trip to California to visit relatives with her mother and two brothers, Betty
decided to stay and start her career out west. During that time, she worked in a
variety of capacities; she was a hospital staff and head nurse at Los Angeles County
General Hospital, a school nurse and an industrial nurse. Following that, she was a
clinical instructor at the University of Southern California Medical Center, Los
Angeles (UCLA), in the areas of medical-surgical nursing, critical care and communicable
disease. In 1957, she received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from UCLA with
a double major in public health and psychology.
In addition to her busy life as a nurse, she also worked as a fashion model and learned
to fly an airplane. She was married and helped establish her husband's medical practice
and manage the office. Their only daughter was born in 1959.
In 1966, she earned a masters degree in mental health and public health consultation
from UCLA. Six months after her graduation, she was hired as a department chair in
the UCLA School of Nursing graduate program. Her teaching methods came to the attention
of other faculty members, and she was encouraged to develop a nursing model. At that
time, she did not write a book but made her concepts known to Joan Riehl-Sisca and Sr.
Callista Roy who included them in their 1971 book, Conceptual Models for Nursing
Practice. In 1972, Neuman published a draft of her model. For the next decade, she
developed and refined the concepts and published her book, The Neuman System Model:
Application to Nursing Education and Practice, in 1982. Additional revisions were
made in later editions. As a speaker and author, she spent many hours teaching the
many concepts and aspects of the model to students and professors.
After many years of teaching in the UCLA graduate nursing program, Neuman earned a
doctorate in clinical psychology from Pacific Western University in 1985. As pioneers
of nursing roles in mental health, Dr. Neuman and Donna Aquilina developed nurse
counselor positions in Los Angeles community crisis centers. Dr. Neuman went on to
open a private practice as a marriage and family therapist, specializing in Christian
counseling. Until 2009, she was the director of the Neuman Systems Model Trustees
Group, Inc. that she founded in 1988, and she still serves as a consultant. The Trustees
Group was formed to preserve and maintain the message of her nursing theory for the
health care community.
Dr. Neuman now lives in Watertown, Ohio, and through her work still is advancing the
Newman Systems Model. She has been many things including a nurse, educator, health
counselor, therapist, author, speaker and researcher. Through the years, she has
received many honors including several honorary doctorates and is an honorary member
of the American Academy of Nursing. The profound effect of her work on the nursing
profession is well known throughout the world.
Publications related to Betty Neuman
- The Neuman Systems Model (5th Edition)
- Blueprints for Use of Nursing Models: Education, Research, Practice & Administration (Pub. (National League for Nursing), No. 14-2696.)
- Nursing Theorists and Their Work, 8e
- Neuman, B., & Reed, K.S. A Neuman Systems Model Perspective on Nursing in 2050, Nursing Science Quarterly, 2007
- Neuman, B., et al. On Nursing Theories and Evidence, Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 2001
- Neuman, B. Leadership-Scholarship Integration: Using the Neuman Systems Model for the 21st Century Professional Nursing Practice, Nursing Science Quarterly,1999