Dr. Ramona T. Mercer is a trailblazer in the field of maternal and child care nursing.
Her Maternal Role Attainment Theory provides the structure for mother-child bonding that
affects the health and development of individuals and families for the rest of their lives.
Mercer's clinical experience, education, research and dedication to evidence-based results
ensures a solid basis for her model.
Dr. Mercer was born as Ramona Theime on October 4, 1929. She married Lewis P. Mercer,
an engineer, on December 31,1971, in San Mateo, California, after meeting him on a
Caribbean cruise. He died at their home in Burlingame, California, on August 6, 2009.
She has one grown daughter, Camille.
Education and Nursing Career
In 1950, Mercer earned a diploma in nursing from St. Margaret's School of Nursing in
Montgomery, Alabama, and then worked for 10 years as staff nurse, head nurse and
instructor in maternal, newborn, pediatric and communicable disease nursing. She
returned to school in 1960 and earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in 1962
from the University of New Mexico. In 1964, she received a master's degree (MSN) in
maternal and child nursing from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. After teaching
at Emory for five years, she left to study for a doctorate in maternity nursing at the
University of Pittsburgh. After receiving her PhD in 1973, she accepted a position as
professor of maternity nursing at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF),
and remained there until her retirement in 1987.
Even after retirement, Dr. Mercer has remained active in nursing education. She is
professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, in the department
of family health care nursing and teaches and writes about maternal nursing.
Honors and Awards
Dr. Mercer has been the recipient of many awards including the Western Society for
Research in Nursing's 1988 inaugural Distinguished Research Lectureship Award. She
was also named a Living Legend in 2003 by the American Academy of Nursing and was
given the Distinguished Alumni Award by the University of New Mexico College of Nursing
in 2004. In addition to her many professional accomplishments, she has written six books and
numerous book chapters and journal articles. Many nursing textbooks are based on her
theory and research.
Dr. Mercer's theory development began in the 1970s with her interest in maternal nursing
and later expanded to include all aspects of maternal-child nursing. The middle range
theory is easily applied to nursing practice and has been verified by Dr. Mercer's
research. While at the University of Pittsburgh, she was influenced by Reva Rubin,
her professor and mentor. Other theoretical influences include the works of George
Mead, John Turner, Heinz Werner, Russell Thornton and Peter Nardi.
Since its original publication, Mercer has revised her nursing theory and changed the
name from Maternal Role Attainment to Becoming a Mother. This reflects the continuing
growth of mothering throughout a woman's lifetime. The basic concepts of the theory
focus on the bond between mother and child, but it can be generalized and used in
other disciplines such as psychology, sociology and education.
Mercer believes that nurses are the prime caregivers and have the most influential
interaction with women throughout the maternity cycle and therefore, play a crucial
role in promoting the health of family and children. Her theory serves as a framework
for not only traditional mothers but also provides appropriate nursing interventions
for nontraditional motherhood. In addition to providing support through pregnancy and
after childbirth, it is useful for adoptive and foster mothers as well as for unexpected,
nontraditional instances of motherhood such as caring for a relative or friend's child
because of death. The nursing process helps the mother bond with the child and builds
the mother-child relationship. The process expands over time with the goals of mother-child
bonding, proficiency of care giving and the final goal of joy and satisfaction within the
Dr. Mercer's clinical experience, education and interest in maternal health nursing
positioned her to have a vital impact in the field of family and child health. Her
theory provides information that healthcare professionals can use to make a positive
difference in the lives of mothers and their families. It applies to mothers of all
ages and is documented in numerous books, nursing journal articles and research papers.
Publications related to Ramona Mercer
- Parents at Risk
- First-Time Motherhood: Experiences from Teens to Forties
- Nursing Care for Parents at Risk
- Mercer, Ramona. Teenage Motherhood: The First Year, Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, 1980
- Mercer, Ramona. A Theoretical Framework for Studying Factors that Impact on the Maternal Role, 1981
- Mercer, Ramona. The Process of Maternal Role Attainment Over the First Year, Nursing Research, 1985
- Nursing Theorists and Their Work, 8e