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Virginia Henderson’s Nursing Need Theory


Nursing is a unique sphere of knowledge which is aimed at delivering care to people who suffer from different illnesses. Being one of the integral parts of medicine, it has always been going along with humanity and evolving to be able to meet all challenges that might appear. Besides, the current approach to nursing obviously differs from the one that was used even a century ago. Like any science, it evolves and obtains new theories, concepts, and methods. Thus, it is also possible to distinguish people who contributed to the evolution of this very sphere more than others by suggesting their unique theories which contributed to the appearance of new more efficient perspective on a certain issue. Besides, at the moment there is a certain theoretical framework which helps nurses to perform their duties at the high level and improve the quality of patients lives. Thus, the existence of this very framework became possible due to the works of outstanding nursing theorists. Virginia Henderson is one of these unique people. She was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and is often titled with the Nightingale of the modern nursing (Ahtisham & Jacoline, 2015). Her contribution to the evolution of the given sphere could hardly be overestimated. She obtained her diploma from the Army School of Nursing at Walter Reed hospital. However, it was just the first stage of her career. She was recognized by numerous institutions and honored by the most outstanding colleagues of her time. Besides, she was also focused on the improvement of the basic knowledge in the given sphere and creation of a specific theory what would be able to encompass the most significant approaches to the delivery of care and assistance. Therefore, her Need Theory became a final result of her findings which suggested a new perspective on the way a patient could be treated.

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Analysis of basic components

The given theory revolves around the concept of nursing and unique importance of the increase of patients independence (Ahtisham & Jacoline, 2015). In other words, she wanted to make the process of recovery more nurse-dependant and assure that the progress would not be delayed after the hospitalization (Karnick, 2014). Henderson introduced her own characterization of nursing activities that rested on basic human needs which had to be fulfilled to improve a patients state. Additionally, she suggested another perspective on the role of a nurse and his/her contribution to the recovery process. It was described as substitutive, supplementary, and complementary (Alligood, 2014). At the same time, a nurses main task was to assist an individual in becoming independent and acknowledged. Henderson was sure that a nurse as the main contributor to the improved outcomes should be responsible for all activities that might help to maintain health, recover, or, in case the disease is fatal, die without suffering (Ahtisham & Jacoline, 2015). In this regard, one should realize the fact that both psychological and medical help should be provided. That is why nine of activities suggested by her have psychological character. These are:

  1. Breathe normally.
  2. Eat and drink adequately.
  3. Eliminate body wastes
  4. Move and maintain desirable postures
  5. Sleep and rest.
  6. Select suitable clothes-dress and undress
  7. Maintain body temperature within normal range by adjusting clothing and modifying environment
  8. Keep the body clean and well groomed and protect the integument
  9. Avoid dangers in the environment and avoid injuring others. (Henderson, 1978).
  10. The next two components (communicate with others in expressing emotions, needs, fears, or opinions; worship according to one’s faith (Henderson, 1978)) delve into the aspect of communication, and the last ones are sociologically oriented:
  11. Work in such a way that there is a sense of accomplishment
  12. Play or participate in various forms of recreation
  13. Learn, discover, or satisfy the curiosity that leads to normal development and health and use the available health facilities. (Henderson, 1978).


The significance of the given theory could be proved by the fact that it still remains relevant and numerous theorists accept it as the theoretical framework which might shape the functioning of any nurse. Besides, in her practice, Henderson obviously adhered to the basic points of this very theory and tried to assist a patient in his/her becoming independent and informed about the possible outcomes of one or another action. Thus, being not just a theorist, but also a practitioner, she managed to prove the great feasibility of the main conceptions presented in her theory and prove their unique relevance. The validity of the theory is also proved by the fact that it is recognized by the majority of modern nursing theorists (Zarzycka et al., 2013).

Nevertheless, the theory perfectly matches the modern health care environment as it is first of all focused on specific needs of every patient. Henderson is sure that only when an individual is satisfied, and his/her basic needs are fulfilled, the improvement of the state could be achieved. For this reason, it could be explored when looking for a specific approach to work with a certain client or a patient that needs assistance. Hendersons framework presupposes that only in case a patient feels comfortable both physically and emotionally, a full recovery could be achieved. For this reason, it remains relevant for the modern model of the delivery of health care and could be used by all specialists who try to create the environment beneficial for a patient.

Finally, the exploration of Need theory suggested by Henderson could also help to foster practice and incorporate it with the most important concepts that exist in the given sphere in the moment. The investigation of the sphere of nursing obviously demands the usage of specific and practice-oriented issues to cover different aspects and create and approach characterized by the increased innovativeness and improved outcomes. For this reason, Hendersons theory could obviously be investigated through the prism of modern care delivery model and serve as the basis for the further research of different issue. Additionally, the usage of fourteen aspects of nursing introduced by her will also guarantee the increased outcomes of research projects aimed at the investigation of the efficiency and feasibility of new approaches in nursing. They could serve as the landmark indicating the extremely vital aspects that should be considered and followed.


Altogether, Hendersons Need theory could be taken as a crucial stage of the evolution of nursing science and its becoming more patient-oriented. Its relevance and impact on the further rise of the healthcare sector could hardly be denied and should be considered its main strength. Being an outstanding specialist, Henderson managed to create the model that inspires people and make them work more efficiently to guarantee patients complete recovery and their becoming independent. The usage of this model could also help to preserve the positive effect of treatment and guarantee that it will be continued after the hospitalization. That is why the Need theory still remains important and impacts the evolution of nursing science.


Ahtisham, Y., & Jacoline, S. (2015). Integrating nursing theory and process into practice; Virginia’s Henderson Need Theory. International Journal of Caring Sciences, 8(2), 443-450. Web.

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Alligood, M. (2014). Nursing theorists and their work. Maryland Heights, MO: MosbyElsevier.

Henderson V. (1978). Principles and practice of nursing. New York, NY: Macmillan Pub Co.

Karnick, P. (2014). A case for nursing theory in practice. Nursing Science Quarterly, 27(2), 117-120. Web.

Zarzycka, D., Dobrowolska, B., Slusarka, B., Wronska, I., Cuber, T., & Pajnkihar, M. (2013). Theoretical foundations of nursing practice in Poland. Nursing Science Quarterly, 26(1), 80-84. Web.

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