Newman’s Health as Expanding Consciousness arose from Rogers’ Theory of Unitary Human Beings. It was stimulated by concern for those for whom health as the absence of disease or disability is simply not possible. The model has progressed to include the health of all people, regardless of the presence or absence of disease. Newman’s theory asserts that every person in every situation, no matter how disordered and hopeless it seems, is part of the universal process of expanding consciousness. This is a process of becoming more of oneself, of finding greater meaning in life, and of reaching new dimensions of connectedness with other people, as well as the world.
Margaret A. Newman was influenced by Martha Rogers’ Theory of Unitary Human Beings, Itzhak Bentov’s Concept of the Evolution of Consciousness, Arthur Young’s Theory of Process, and David Bohm’s Theory of Implicate as she developed her model of nursing.
The Health as Expanding Consciousness theory makes the following assumptions:
- Health encompasses conditions described as illness, or, in medical terms, pathology.
- These pathological conditions can be considered a manifestation of the total pattern of the patient.
- The pattern of the individual patient that eventually manifests itself as pathology is primary, and exists prior to structural or functional changes.
- Removal of pathology will not, in itself, change the pattern of the individual patient.
- If becoming ill is the only way an individual patient’s pattern is able to manifest itself, then that is health for that individual patient.
- Health is an expansion of consciousness.
According to Newman, “the theory of health as expanding consciousness was stimulated by concern for those for whom health as the absence of disease or disability is not possible. Nurses often relate to such people: people facing the uncertainty, debilitation, loss and eventual death associated with chronic illness. The theory has progressed to include the health of all persons regardless of the presence or absence of disease. The theory asserts that every person in every situation, no matter how disordered and hopeless it may seem, is part of the universal process of expanding consciousness – a process of becoming more of oneself, of finding greater meaning in life, and of reaching new dimensions of connectedness with other people and the world.”
Patients are open to the whole energy system of the universe, as well as constantly interacting with the energy. This process of interaction allows people to evolve their individual patterns of whole. According to Newman, understanding the patient’s pattern is essential. The pattern recognition is the expanding consciousness. The manifestation of disease depends on the pattern of the patient, so the pathology of the diseases exists before the symptoms begin to appear. Because of this, removal of the disease symptoms does not change the individual structure.
Newman redefines nursing according to her nursing process of recognizing the individual in relation to the environment, and it is a process of the understanding of consciousness. The nurse’s understanding of people helps them use the power within to develop the higher level of consciousness. Therefore, it helps to realize the disease process, its recovery, and its prevention.
She also explains the interrelatedness of time, space, and movement. Time and space are the temporal pattern of the patient, and they have a complementary relationship. People are constantly changing through time and space, and it shows a unique pattern
The theory explains that health and illness are synthesized as health. That is, the fusion of one state of being (disease) with its opposite (non-disease) results in what can be considered health. In this model, the human is unitary. He or she cannot be divided into parts, and is inseparable from the larger unitary field. People are individuals, and human beings are, as a species, identified by their patterns of consciousness. The person does not possess consciousness. Instead, the person is consciousness. People are centers of consciousness with an overall pattern of expanding consciousness. The environment is described as a “universe of open systems.”
In this model, nursing is “caring in the human health experience.” It is seen as a partnership between the nurse and patient, with both growing in the “sense of higher levels of consciousness.”
Newman’s theory is considered a grand nursing theory. She states that people cannot be divided into parts. Health is central to the theory, and is seen as a process of a developing awareness of the individual self and the person’s environment. She also states that “consciousness is a manifestation of an evolving pattern of person-environment interaction.”
Newman’s Health as Expanding Consciousness Theory is beneficial because it can be applied in any setting and “generates caring interventions.” However, its drawbacks are that it is abstract, multidimensional, and qualitative, and there is little discussion
on environment within the model.