Need Theory Application to Nursing Profession


A number of nursing theories have been developed and promoted by scholars to enhance the nursing practice. They entail frameworks that define and describe various aspects of the nursing profession. One of these models is the need theory, which was selected for this paper. The theoretical framework was developed by Virginia Henderson. It is also known as the Nightingale of Modern Nursing. Virginia Henderson is one of the most famous educators and authors in nursing history (Parker & Smith, 2010). She developed the theory based on her education and practice. Virginia had her own definition of nursing. Her conceptualization highlighted the difference between nursing and medicine. The definition portrayed a nurse as an individual whose work is to assist both the sick and healthy patients. Consequently, the practitioner contributes to good health and quick recovery.

Theories play a significant role in the professional life of nurses. For example, they improve the outputs of nurses and, consequently, patient’s outcomes (Parker & Smith, 2010). They focus on the autonomy of the client during admission. Such a focus ensures that the normal progress of healing is not interrupted as a result of the intervention. Practitioners apply nursing theories to assist their clients gain independence before, during, and after admission (Burggraf, 2012).

Nursing models improve the efficiency of practitioners by organizing their activities into different categories. For example, the need theory clusters nursing tasks into fourteen elements. The tasks involve supplementary, complementary, and substantive works. Complementary activities involve working with the patient. On the other hand, supplementary activities entail helping the client. Finally, substantive functions involve ‘doing’ for the patient. The 14 components help the sick to regain their independence as soon as possible (Burggraf, 2012).

The current paper is divided into four sections. In section one, the author analyzes the importance of theory to the nursing profession. In the second part, an analysis of the need theory is provided. In part three of this paper, a discussion of how the need theory views nursing education is made. Finally, a conclusion regarding insights gained in the process of writing this paper is given.

Importance of Theory to Nursing Practice

Theories are important to the nursing profession in different ways. Many nurses find it difficult to deal with different patients who present varying complications. Theories help the nursing practitioners to study the behavior of the patients. As such, they can determine how to deal with the client depending on the behavior and the character presented (McEwen & Wills, 2014). Theoretical frameworks also help nurses to identify the basic needs of clients. The practitioners gain experience and knowledge on how to handle different conditions in a hospital setting. In the process, the skills and competencies of the practitioners are improved (Tonges & Ray, 2011). Consequently, the quality of healthcare services is enhanced.

In addition to the practitioners, patients also gain from these theoretical frameworks. The main aim of these frameworks is to provide independence for the clients. To achieve this, patients are taught how take care of themselves at home. For example, clients gain information on how to maintain their body temperature by adjusting to their surroundings. They are also taught on personal hygiene to avoid infections. Dietary recommendations are also made (Parker & Smith, 2010). The items highlighted above illustrate the advice that patients get from nurses. The information contributes significantly to independence. Many patients benefit from this advice given that it enables them to achieve a normal and healthy development.

In addition to the above, nursing theories aim at ensuring that patients are not hospitalized for long. To this end, they are allowed to undergo full recovery at home (McEwen & Wills, 2014). A quick hospital recovery is of benefit to the patients. It saves many of them from the obligation of paying huge hospital bills that result from long durations of hospitalization. The cost of the medical services is reduced in the process. Consequently, many individuals are able to afford quality healthcare. In addition, the process helps in the decongestion of medical centers. Other sick people can be admitted in the healthcare establishments without any problems related to the availability of space or beds.

Nursing theory is used in many institutions to help those majoring in the nursing field to acquire adequate knowledge on how to deal with different complications. It is also studied to enhance understanding of best practice in nursing. As a result, nurses can avert complications that may arise when patients are under their care (Tonges & Ray, 2011).

Nursing theory also facilitates various forms of studies relating to different health problems. In light of this, it is noted that theoretical frameworks help in carrying out research. Patients with various health complications seek help in these medical centers. Some of these complications are common and familiar to the practitioners, while others are not. To ensure that the needs of the new complications are established as the theory states, research has to be conducted (Parker & Smith, 2010). The study of nursing theory helps in understanding the physical processes involved in healing and treatment.

Key Concepts and Inter-Relationships among the Concepts of the Need Theory

A number of concepts are used to describe the components of the theory. Henderson’s conceptualization of the need theory revolves around four elements. The four are human beings, health, nursing, and the environment. According to the theorist, a patient is a person who requires assistance. They need help to achieve various goals. The most important of these aspirations is independence. Henderson views individuals and their families as a component or a unit. In addition, the mind and the body are inseparable units (Parker & Smith, 2010). As such, they need to be taken care of as a unit. According to Henderson, the involvement of the patient and their family is needed to help achieve full independence of body and mind.

Health is another concept explained in the theory. Healthcare involves the ability of the challenged person to attain full independence as described in the 14 components of nursing care (Parker & Smith, 2010). Henderson describes health as the life itself. In addition, it is the ability of the client to carry out their duties by fully exploiting the potential of their body and mind. The environment concept is used to describe external factors that impact on the health of an individual. All external conditions that impact on the life of the patient are included in this concept.

The concepts of health, human beings, and the environment are directly related. For example, the environment and the people in it, including fellow human beings, can affect the life of the individual either positively or negatively. The direction and nature of the impact is informed by a number of factors, such as the susceptibility and vulnerability of the subject. According to Henderson and the theory, nursing care is offered to either a sick or a healthy client. To this end, Parker and Smith (2010) are of the view that the environment and the agents in it determine the health of the individual. The relationship between these concepts explains that nursing care is required by all human beings around and within a specified environment. The intervention has various objectives. One of them is to improve public health (Burggraf, 2012).

Some of the reasons why this theory is used by many practitioners is that it provides a comprehensive analysis of the procedures to be undertaken by the nurses in creating independence (Parker & Smith, 2010). In addition, it describes the importance of maintaining and improving the health of the patients both inside and outside the hospital.

Views of the Need Theory on Nursing Education

The need theory views nursing leadership, nursing education, and nursing informatics as some of the ways through which the health of individuals can be enhanced within their environment. However, the theoretical framework focuses significantly on nursing education as a specialization. According to Virginia Henderson, nursing is a complicated and demanding profession. Any individual practicing this trade needs to be informed of the developments in the field. In addition, they should have the knowledge needed to deal with different kinds of problems that may affect the life of individuals (Parker & Smith, 2010). Nursing education comes in to address this issue. As such, one can argue that Henderson developed the theory to promote education in the nursing profession.

The first nursing institution in London was established by Florence Nightingale. It was started in 1860. The institution was opened with the purpose of providing education and knowledge to nursing students. It is one of the reasons why the need theory was named after this nursing icon. She established the basis of this profession in the world (Parker & Smith, 2010). She is a good example of how nursing education is viewed. She wrote many letters to practitioners on how nursing should be performed. She also checked on the behavior of the nurses to ensure their work was in line with the requirements (McEwen & Wills, 2014). Nurses who did not comply with the standards while giving help to patients were subjected to scrutiny for a period of time.

Like Nightingale, the founders of the need theory advocated for a uniform curriculum for all nursing students. The American government is a good example of an institution that has made efforts to promote nursing education and good leadership. The authorities have supported the practice by introducing a nursing curriculum. The Curriculum Guide for Schools in Nursing and the Nursing and Nursing Education in United States are two curricula that were introduced to help in promoting uniformity in this field (McEwen & Wills, 2014). It is an illustration of experiences of nursing schools that are influenced by the need theory with the aim of helping patients gain independence.


In writing this paper, the author learned that the need nursing theory has worked well for many healthcare centers. Independence of patients is one of the pillars guiding the nursing profession. The component is largely determined by the environment, nursing interventions, human beings, and health. The four facets are clearly explained in the theory. The author also learned that for these elements to function in the right way, nursing education is required. Many institutions have developed systems that should be followed by nurses to enhance the quality of services delivered to the patients. The need theory goes a long way in the achievement of this objective.


Burggraf, V. (2012). Overview and summary: The new millennium: Evolving and emerging nursing roles. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 17(2), 1.

McEwen, M., & Wills, E. (2014). Theoretical basis for nursing (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

Parker, M., & Smith, M. (2010). Nursing theory and nursing practice (3rd ed.). Florida: F.A. Davis Company.

Tonges, M., & Ray, J. (2011). Translating caring theory into practice: The Carolina care model. The Journal of Nursing Administration, 41(9), 374-381.

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