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Obituary: Marjory Gordon of CSON; Pioneer in Nursing Diagnosis


By Office of News & Public Affairs |

Published: May 7, 2015

A funeral Mass was celebrated Monday in St. Ignatius Church for Professor Emerita Marjory Gordon, a Connell School of Nursing faculty member for 23 years and an internationally recognized expert on the development of standardized nursing language, who died on April 29.

Dr. Gordon was the creator of the Eleven Functional Health Patterns (FHP), which has provided generations of nurses with a format for patient diagnosis. Her groundbreaking work in clinical reasoning and nursing language development was credited with giving nurses a voice in patient care outcomes and leading to the adoption of nursing language in the emerging area of electronic medical recordkeeping.

She published four books, including the Manual of Nursing Diagnosis, which is in its 12th edition and has been translated into almost a dozen languages, and lectured to nurses and educators on nursing diagnosis and FHP in Japan, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, and throughout Central America.

In 1982, Dr. Gordon became the first president of NANDA, the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association. She was principal investigator on research projects involving nursing processes and nursing diagnoses, and co-director of a US Public Health Service Grant to improve nurses’ diagnostic and ethical reasoning.

Dr. Gordon, who retired from the Connell School in 1996, was a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, which in 2009 honored her as a Living Legend of the Academy. Speaking at the award ceremony, her Connell School colleague Professor Sister Callista Roy said, “She began this work [of creating a common nursing language] when computers were just starting. And, now this is the basis for the nursing component of the electronic medical record. I think she’s a role model for all us. She is constantly raising the standards and the clarity of nursing diagnosis so as to give nursing a voice and visibility in health care.”
Sister Roy said that because of Dr. Gordon’s work, “nursing as a discipline is stronger in the US and around the world.”

Among many other honors, Dr. Gordon was presented with the Mentor’s Award from NANDA-International, and was among the members of the inaugural class of NANDA International Fellows inducted in 2012. In a tribute to Dr. Gordon on its website last week, NANDA-International called her “an ever-present voice for standardized nursing diagnoses that would support clinical decision making.

“The fact that she insisted on diagnostic criteria to support that critical thinking – before the introduction of technology or electronic health records – is a testament to her vision as well as her awareness of the need for accuracy in diagnosis to drive quality, safe patient care.”

She also received the Massachusetts Nurses Association Education Award; Japanese Society for Nursing Diagnosis’ Distinguished Service Award, and the Massachusetts Association of Registered Nurses Living Legend Award.

Dr. Gordon earned bachelor of science and master of science degrees from Hunter College, City University of New York and a doctoral degree from Boston College.