Virginia Henderson’s Need Theory in Nursing

Experience of Disorder Symptoms – Nursing Research
August 25, 2022
MOHA 530
August 25, 2022

Virginia Henderson’s Need Theory in Nursing


The use of nursing theories in the clinical nursing environment varies significantly depending on the context. However, all such theories are targeted at achieving high levels of care for patients regardless of who they are and what is their background. For the purpose of the current discussion, it was chosen to focus on Virginia Henderson’s Need Theory that developed to enhance the level of patients’ independence to ensure that the post-hospitalization recovery process is occurring smoothly.

The discussion will be divided into the exploration of the theorist’s background, the analysis of the main components of the theory, as well as the evaluation of its relevance to the nursing practice. While there is a range of various theories that support nurses’ care choices and methods, understanding Henderson’s Need Theory will facilitate the enhancement of care for patients due to its universal nature, simplicity, and the positive outlook on nursing care.

Born on November 30, 1897, Virginia Henderson pioneered the idea of needs-based nursing. After moving from Kansas City, state Missouri, to Washington D.C., Henderson enrolled into the Army School of Nursing (Ahtisham & Jacoline, 2015). Henderson worked in the nursing setting at the Henry Street Visiting facility after graduating university in 1921. In 1923, Henderson began her scholarly career by becoming a teacher at the Norfolk Protestant Hospital in Virginia (Ahtisham & Jacoline, 2015).

In 1932, studying at the Teachers College at Columbia University earned Henderson a Bachelor’s Degree, which in 1934 was followed by a Master’s degree. Her career processed with becoming a representative of the Columbia University faculty and worked there until 1948. Later, the Yale University School of Nursing offered Henderson the opportunity to become a research associate, which she accepted to build her knowledge further.

The scholar is fully relevant, given the immense contribution that she made to nursing theory. Having received multiple recognitions and acclaims from numerous educational institutions, including the Honorary doctoral degrees, Henderson became an unparalleled expert in nursing. Henderson also worked on correcting and editing Harmer’s classic nursing guide, as well as incorporated her own definitions. She died on March 19, 1996 (George, 2011).

Virginia Henderson’s Need Theory

The Need Theory was developed for defining the specific focus of nursing as a practice on patients’ needs. It is concerned with increasing the independence of patients within the process of care, especially after being discharged from hospitals. The theory underlines the importance of addressing human needs and what part should nurses play in terms of addressing those needs (Nicely & DeLario, 2011). According to Henderson’s perspective, the definition of nursing is considered a “concept,” with nursing activities differentiated into fourteen constituents that are linked to the needs of their patients (Ahtisham & Jacoline, 2015).

The theorist described the role of health practitioners are substitutive, complementary, and supplementary, all of which were targeted at helping patients become as independent as possible. Within the substitutive role, nurses should perform some tasks instead of their patients (Maier, Köppen, Busse, & MUNROS Team, 2018). In the complementary role, healthcare practitioners are expected to work with their patients to develop effective strategies for overcoming their healthcare risks and challenges. In the supplementary role, nurses help their patients to become independent and make informed decisions associated with increasing their health outcomes.