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Virginia Henderson: Nursing Theory

315 words 2 page(s)

Virginia Henderson (1897-1996) was a nursing theorist who put forth the Needs Theory of nursing. This theory is one that addresses the need of the patient to be able to care for themselves. Henderson is famous for having said that her definition of nursing is: “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 peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge” (Petiprin, 2016). What this means is that nurses help patients recover and regain their independence. This independence is related to whatever their need involves.

Henderson also categorized the nursing role into three main functions. These functions are substitutive, supplementary, or complementary (Petiprin, 2016). The substitutive role is when a nurse performs a task for the patient (Petiprin, 2016). A nurse plays a supplementary role when helping a patient perform a task (Petiprin, 2016). A nurse plays a complementary role when working with a patient to do something themselves. Out of these three functions, a patient is closest to regaining autonomy when nurses are complementary, rather than supplementary or substitutive.

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The nursing Needs Theory is relevant in today’s clinical nursing practice, especially in rehabilitation nursing. There are many nurses who rely on Henderson’s Needs theory. There are indeed different stages of patient rehabilitation in every clinical practice, with our ultimate purpose as being to help our patients regain their autonomy. Henderson’s Needs theory could be applied in acute nursing care when the patient is transitioning from a state of health to a recovery state. In modern clinical practice, Henderson’s nursing Needs theory is practiced because it has become the traditional view of the role of nurses as healers.

  • Petiprin, A. (2016). Virginia Henderson nursing theorist. Nursing Retrieved from

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