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Betty Neuman

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

Why I Want To Be A Nurse
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