Virginia Henderson’s Nursing Need Theory

In nursing, many models guide how care is given to patients in and out of hospital. One such theory is the Nursing need theory modelled by Virginia Henderson. Virginia Henderson advocated for a nursing practice that supported self-care for patients after hospitalization (Ahtisham & Jacoline, 2015). The nursing model known as nursing need theory has improved the provision of health care to patients in and outside hospitals.

Driven by her need to improve health care of her patients, Henderson advocated for patients’ power to take care of themselves at home. The rallying call of nursing need theory is to create a unique focus of nursing practice that emphasizes on patient’s independence (Ahtisham & Jacoline, 2015). As such, nursing need theory is a theory that is patient-centered through the four elements including individual, health, environment, and nursing.

The key concept of nursing theory is patient power to self-care. The theory argues that when a patient is allowed to take care of himself or herself, there is need for a progressive health care after hospitalization (Ahtisham & Jacoline, 2015). In fact, Henderson pushed for focused nursing practice, which centers on basic human need without the direct help of a healthcare provider as best health care practice (Ahtisham & Jacoline, 2015).

To support the push for basic human need in health care, Henderson based the nursing need theory on three assumptions. The axioms included nurses should care for patients until such patient is able to care for self, nurses should be willing to offer care to patient at all times, and that nurses should be well educated and skilled in sciences and arts to allow them offer professional care.

In short, the nursing need theory focuses on patient’s ability to care of self through the help of a caregiver. To enable a patient care for themselves, four key human elements must be in place. The four health aspects include the individual, health, nursing, and the environment. These human aspects are key when given care to ensure a patient has a holistic health even after leaving hospital.


Ahtisham, Y., & Jacoline, S. (2015). Integrating Nursing Theory and Process into Practice; Virginia’s Henderson Need Theory. International Journal Of Caring Sciences, 8(12), 443.

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