Virginia Henderson Need theory

Virginia Henderson Need Theory


Understanding Virginia Henderson’s Need Theory could support the improvement of care for patients due to its universal nature, simplicity, and positive outlook on nursing care. Henderson ushered in need-based nursing. The scholar is revered for the immense contribution she made to nursing theory. Henderson also corrected and edited Harmer’s classical nursing guide as well as incorporated her own definitions. This article will contain a scholarly investigation of the theorist’s background, the analysis of the main components of this nursing theory, and evaluate its significance in nursing practices.

First, let us familiarize with basic info about her. However, feel free to skip to the need theory!

Henderson’s Background

Virginia Henderson was the sixth of eight children born to Lucy Minor Abbot and Daniel B. Henderson in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1897.

Her mother’s dream state was the inspiration for her name. When she was four years old, she returned to Virginia and began her education at Bellevue, a preparatory school established by her grandfather, William Richardson Abbot.

Her father was a former Bellevue teacher and an attorney who specialized in assisting Native American tribes in legal conflicts with the federal government, winning a landmark case for the Klamath tribe in 1937.

Henderson’s Education

Virginia Henderson had her early schooling at home in Virginia, with her aunts, and at her uncle Charles Abbot’s community Army School of Nursing at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.

She graduated from the Army School of Nursing at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., with her diploma in nursing in 1921.

She began teaching at the Protestant Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1923.

She enrolled at Columbia University’s Teachers College in 1929, earning a Bachelor’s degree in 1932 and a Master’s degree in 1934.

Henderson’s Career

Virginia Henderson worked at the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service for two years after getting her diploma in 1921.

After two years, she had intended to change careers, but her great desire to serve the profession thwarted her plans.

She worked to change nurses’ perceptions over time, in part by doing extensive research that helped build the intellectual foundations of her profession.

She served at Norfolk Protestant Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, as an educator and educational director from 1924 to 1929.

She became a nurse supervisor and clinical instructor at Strong Memorial Hospital’s outpatient department in Rochester, New York, the following year, in 1930.

She worked at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, for 14 years, from 1934 to 1948.

Henderson has worked as a research associate and as a research associate emeritus at Yale University School of Nursing since 1953.

She traveled the world to share and encourage nurses and other healthcare professionals at the invitation of professional associations, institutions, and governments throughout her career.

She emphasized that a nurse’s first responsibility is to the patient, not the doctor. Her contributions laid the groundwork for nursing research, including a widely used system for collecting patient observations, and have made nurses significantly more important to doctors.

Her death occurred on 19 March 1996.

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The Need Theory

The Need Theory is a theory of nursing that Virginia Henderson created. It focuses on increasing patients’ independence to fasten recovery. Henderson’s theory is considered a skill-based method of nursing because a patient’s recovery depends on nurses’ ability to function as caregivers with the use of practical skills. This gives patients the independence they need to recover faster in an environment that provides warmth, hope, and comfort for them in order to boost their morale which helps aid their recovery.

Assumptions of Need Theory

The need theory assumes that:

  1. Nurses care for patients until they can care for themselves again.
  2. Nurses are willing to serve, and that “nurses will devote themselves to the patient day and night.”
  3. Patients have a need to recover.
  4. Nurses should be educated at the university level in both arts and sciences.

Need Theory’s Major Concepts

The following are the four major concepts of need theory:

  • Individual
  • Environment
  • Health
  • Nursing


The need theory defines the environment as the primary support system. Henderson encourages nurses to build a positive, safe, and healthy environment for patients to help them recover quickly.

According to her, an individual helps construct his or her own sense of self through participation in life events that offer pleasant or unpleasant encounters with physical surroundings.


The second concept of the need theory is the individual. Henderson believes that people are active agents in their own care and recovery, which gives them a sense of control over their lives.

These individuals have the ability to self-regulate processes when they experience positive physical surroundings.


Health definition is based on a person’s ability to function independently, as stated in the 14 components. Nurses goal is to promote health and prevent and cure diseases.

It is a challenge for an individual to have good health. Health is affected by age, physical abilities, cultural background, and intellectual capacities. Perfect emotional balance is when an individual is able to meet these needs independently.


Henderson defined nursing as “The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to a peaceful death) that would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge.”

Nurses are responsible for an individual’s needs; nurses should assess the needs of each patient individually and see how best he or she can help them.

The four major concepts are interrelated, mutually dependent, and should be viewed as a whole. The components together work to create wholeness in individuals. When one component is disturbed, it disturbs the whole.

The Need Theory has 14 Components.

Virginia Henderson’s 14 components of Need Theory demonstrate a holistic nursing strategy that addresses physiological, psychological, spiritual, and social needs.

Physiological Components

1. Take a normal breath.

2. Get enough food and water.

3. Get rid of bodily wastes

4. Maintain good postures by moving about.

5. Get some rest and sleep

6. Choose appropriate clothing – dress and undress

7. Maintain a normal body temperature by changing clothing and the environment.

8. Maintain a clean and well-groomed body while protecting the integument.

9. Stay out of risky situations in the environment and don’t injure others.

Communicating and Learning from a Psychological Perspective

10. Interact with people to convey feelings, wants, worries, or viewpoints.

14. Use the available health facilities to learn, discover, or fulfil the curiosity that leads to normal development and health.

Spiritual and Moral

11. Worship in accordance with one’s religious beliefs

Occupation and Recreation from a Sociological Perspective

  • 12. Work in such a way that there is a sense of accomplishment
  • 13. Play or participate in various forms of recreation

Strengths of The Need Theory

The theory is a holistic approach to nursing.

It promotes the view of a human being as whole and complete.

In addition, it takes into consideration all aspects of life which have an effect on health status.

Finally, it encourages nurses to work together with other healthcare professionals in a team care approach for patients’ satisfaction and better health outcomes.

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Weaknesses of The Need Theory

It does not indicate a specific nursing process to be used when assessing and meeting patient needs.

In addition, it may be challenging to use in practice because it is qualitative in nature, which makes it more challenging to measure needs.

Finally, there are no evidence-based findings to support all components of the need theory.

Relevance of the Model

The Need Theory addresses the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of an individual.

In addition, it has been used as a framework to address the needs of those who cannot care for themselves. The need theory is also used to help people with disabilities. They are allowed to participate in activities that will act on their senses and strengthen their bodies, minds, and spirits.

This model can be used while caring for someone who has schizophrenia or mental illness. Patients can be encouraged to participate in activities that will help them fulfill their needs.

The need theory can also be used to address the needs of a dying person. It can be used in nursing homes and long-term care facilities where death is imminent.

Identifying the psychological, spiritual, social needs of others is key when providing holistic care for individuals who are sick or injured.

A Lasting Legacy

Virginia Henderson remained a significant influence in the nursing field throughout the ’20 century ‘. Henderson knew something about his patients’ needs long before they were considered normal. The help to help a patient achieve independence is a goal each nurse should be as attainable.

Ms. Henderson’s nursing theory has been very adaptable for many patient settings. Her approach to nursing continues to be very influential and growing.

Ms. Henderson is one of America’s unsung heroines, and historians should be aware of her contributions to the profession that changes lives every day – health care.

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