Remembering Betty Neuman (September 11, 1924 – May 28, 2022)

Betty Neuman was born and raised on a farm in rural Ohio and died in the early morning hours of May 28, 2022 near Seattle, Washington, where she had located several years ago to be near her family.

Betty Neuman is the nursology theorist who developed the Neuman Systems Model, a widely and internationally used conceptual model of nursology (see https://nursology.net/nurse-theories/neumans-systems-model/). This model “focuses on the wellness of the client system in relation to environmental stressors and reactions to stressors. . . . [The] goal of nursing [is] to facilitate optimal wellness for the client through retention, attainment, or maintenance of client system stability” (Fawcett & DeSanto-Madeya, 2013, p. 139).

Betty received her diploma in nursology from a hospital in Akron, Ohio shortly after the end of World War II in 1947, as part of the Cadet Nurse Corp program. She earned her baccalaureate degree in nursology with dual major in mental health and public health from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1957, and Master’s degree in nursology, also from UCLA, in 1966. In 1985, she earned a PhD in clinical psychology from Pacific Western University.

Betty was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Grand Valley State University in Michigan in 1988, and from Neumann College (now Neumann University) in Aston, PA, in 1992. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 1993. Photos of Betty from her early student days until a few years ago can be found Photos of Betty from her early student days until a few years ago can be found at here.

During her time on the faculty of UCLA from 1967 to 1973, Betty developed the first community mental health program for graduate students in the Los Angeles, CA area. This program resulted in development of the Neuman Systems Model, which was initially titled the Total Person Approach to Patient Problems, in response to learners request for an organized approach to practice. The model was first published in 1972 by Neuman and Young. Subsequently, Betty edited or co-edited five editions of book, The Neuman Systems Model, as well as authoring or co-authoring several journal articles and book chapters. Noteworthy is that chapters about the Neuman Systems Model have been included in other books about nursology conceptual models and theories, and that several middle-range or situation-specific theories have been derived from the Neuman Systems Model. In addition, several editions a book about the Neuman Systems Model have been published in Dutch (the 7th edition was published in spring 2022), and PowerPoint files of slides about model content are available in Dutch and in Spanish (see https://www.neumansystemsmodel.org/international-resources-1).

Of note is that Betty has explained that she had no intention of creating a specific conceptual model for the nursing community when she developed the model. She commented, “It is important to state that neither was I knowledgeable about nursing models nor had a clear trend yet begun in nursing for developing models. The Neuman Systems Model was developed strictly as a teaching aid” (Neuman, 2011, p. 332). Despite Betty’s claim, the Neuman Systems Model has been used extensively throughout the globe for many years and as it continues to evolve with refinements in content, it is highly likely that this conceptual model of nursology will continue to guide practice, research, and educational curricula for decades if not centuries to come.

Betty founded the Neuman Systems Model Trustee Group, Inc. in 1988. The Trustees include nursologists from the United States and other countries, including Canada and Holland. “The mission and purposes of the Neuman System Model Trustees Group, Inc. are to preserve, protect and maintain the integrity and relevance of the model for the global nursing community and global health care community” (https://www.neumansystemsmodel.org/mission).

The Trustees sponsor a biennial international symposium (see the symposium folder posted here). The next symposium will be in 2023. Photos of Betty and photos from various symposia can be seen here)
In addition, the Trustees hold a biennial business meeting of the group. See a video with a message from Betty for the meeting in June 2000. The Trustees have established a practice center, a research institute, and an education academy. Each of these entities awards grants and serve as a resource for nursologists and others who may be interested in the Neuman Systems Model. Many of Betty’s collection of personal and professional materials are housed in the archives of the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia, PA.

In the conclusion to their chapter about the Neuman Systems Model, Fawcett and DeSanto-Madeya (2013, pp. 168-169) summarized the contributions of the model. They stated,

The Neuman Systems Model reflects nursing’s interest in people as holistic systems, whether well or ill, and in environmental influences on health. The use of terms such as variances from wellness and primary prevention underscores the emphasis Neuman places on wellness.

Furthermore, Neuman’s clear emphasis on clients’ perceptions of stressors and resources, and the central part that clients play in setting goals and identifying relevant prevention interventions, underscore the importance of the client system in the [nursology] situation.The primary contribution of the Neuman Systems Model has been pragmatic, in that it is an exceptionally useful guide for [nursology] practice and [nursology] education in various settings in several countries. The model is readily translatable to other cultures and, therefore, has the potential to facilitate resolution of universal [nursology] concerns. Despite the large number of studies already conducted, programs of targeted Neuman Systems Model-based research continue to be needed to determine the credibility of the model beyond pragmatic considerations.

Betty’s own words best summarize the overall contributions of the Neuman Systems Model. She stated:

The Neuman Systems Model fits well with the wholistic concept of optimizing a dynamic yet stable interrelationship of spirit, mind, and body of the client in a constantly changing environment and society . . . The Neuman Systems Model has fulfilled the World Health organization mandate for the year [2010] and reaches far beyond, seeking unity in wellness states—wellness of spirit, mind, body, and environment. The Neuman Systems Model also is in accord with the views of the American Nursing Association, sharing its concern about potential stressors and its emphasis on primary prevention, as well as world health care reform concern for preventing illness.

Neuman, 2011, p. 32

Sources

For more information see the Marietta Times obituary of June 13, 2022

Portions of this blog were extracted from https://www.neumansystemsmodel.org/

For a comprehensive bibliography of publications about the Neuman Systems Model, see https://www.neumansystemsmodel.org/bibliography. See also Chapter 7 of Fawcett, J., & DeSanto-Madeya, S. (2013). Contemporary nursing knowledge: Analysis and evaluation of nursing models and theories (3rd ed.).F. A. Davis.

Fawcett, J., & DeSanto-Madeya, S. (2013). Contemporary nursing knowledge: Analysis and evaluation of nursing models and theories (3rd ed.).F. A. Davis.

Neuman, B. (2011). Betty Neuman’s autobiography and chronology of the development and utilization of the Neuman systems model. In B. Neuman & J. Fawcett (Eds.), The Neuman systems model (5th ed., pp. 330–337). Pearson.

Neuman, B., & Young, R. J., (1972). A model for teaching total person approach to patient problems. Nursing Research, 21(2), 264-269.

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