Key Concepts

A theory wouldn't be complete if there aren't key concepts to support the major concepts and to explain the relationship between them. Furthermore, diagrams in this page will help in the visualization of the interaction between the concepts as well as present the outcome once the Needs Theory of Virginia Henderson is used. In addition, limitations of the theory are presented.

Key Concepts

Nursing - Henderson theory defined nursing in a functional manner.
  • Assisting the individual in activities contributing to his/her health. 
  • Will achieve health, if individuals will have strength, will, or knowledge

Person - as a whole being having biological, psychosocial and spiritual components
  • Main center of the nursing care and nursing functions in relation to the environment affecting the individual needs.

Nursing Function - ability to define the needs of the client by promoting independence.
  • Assisting client rationally in meeting the needs.

Nursing Care - the application of nursing and nursing function to assists and supports the individual in life activities and the attainment of independence.
  • When the patient is able to perform all the functions by him or herself then the patient could be considered independent and no longer required the aid of a nurse.

Virginia Henderson also believed that it was important that nursing be based on evidence, and that research was a critical component of improving nursing practice. She assumed all nurses should have access to literature on nursing and current nursing research to help better their practices, and to this end, she worked to develop an index of nursing.

Goal of nursing: Independence and to improve the health of individuals and thus reduce illness.

Relationships of Concepts:
Concepts of fundamental human needs, biophysiology, culture and interaction, communication are borrowed from other disciplines Eg. Maslow’s Hierarchy of human needs; concept of interaction; communication, i.e nurse patient relationship.

Comparison with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need
Physiological needs

Breathe normally
Eat and drink adequately
Eliminate by all avenues of elimination.
Move and maintain desirable posture
Sleep and rest
Select suitable clothing
Maintain body temperature
Keep body clean and well groomed
Protect the skin
Safety Needs
Avoid environmental dangers and avoid injuring others
Belongingness and Love Needs
Communicate with others
Worship according to one’s faith
Esteem Needs
Work at something providing a sense of accomplishment
Play or participate in various forms of recreation
Learn, discover, or satisfy curiosity

Diagrams on the Needs Theory
Figure 1. Interaction Between Concepts as presented by Paolo Guevarra
As the above diagram shows that each concepts related to Henderson theory are interrelated. The blue big circle shows how important to have communication between the nurse and the client as these two components are inter linkage as well, to define the needs of the client by assisting the individuals in her/his activities of daily living. 

In such a way, as environment plays an important role in the theory of Henderson. Thus, settings in which the individuals learn to adapt in a unique pattern of living which can be enhanced by the nurse client relationships.

Figure 2. Conceptual Paradigm Explaining the Nursing Process in Virginia Henderson’s Theory as presented by Michael Vincent Mercado
Legend: Green – Health (in Henderson’s case, ability to perform basic needs), Blue – Needs (Basic Functions in which the Client (Person) must perform to be considered healthy), Pink – Nursing Problem (The degree of difficulty in which the client is unable to perform fundamental needs), Orange­ – Nursing Intervention (dependent on the degree of the nursing problem).

Figure 3. Interaction of Concepts and the Nursing Process as presented by Philip Salarda


In Henderson’s 14 basic needs, all aspects of the needs of the person were met except for love and belongingness- if basing the needs as stated by Maslow.
  • Henderson covered the physiologic aspects (Breathing normally, Eating and drinking adequately, Eliminating body wastes, Moving and maintaining desirable position, Sleeping and resting) of human needs as well as safety and security, as well as sociological needs that are imperative to be met in order for a person to become “a person”. The only point that was overlooked perhaps was the love and belongingness aspect of human needs.
In Henderson’s definition of health, she stated that “individuals will achieve or maintain health if they have the necessary strength, will or knowledge”.
  • In this definition, Henderson focused on the mental and physical aspects of a person to attain health and neglected to mention that health is also influenced by other factors such as environment and other external factors such as support, political influence, availability of health care and many more. Although a person ids mainly responsible for the outcome of his/ her own health.
  • Henderson further stated that “health is basic to human functioning and promotion of health is more important than care of the sick”. This statement stays true to the idea of Community Health Nursing of the importance of health promotion. But in a disease stricken community, this idea of health is not applicable. Especially that people do not seek consult with health care providers when they are healthy. In the situation stated, for nurses and other health care providers, it would be more important to take care of the sick, rehabilitate then health promotion as well as monitoring could follow.
  • Henderson also focused her definition of health on the extent of “independence” that a person has in order to perform tasks that are relevant to his/ her own health. She stated “that margin of mental physical vigor that allows a person to work most effectively to reach his highest potential level of satisfaction in life”. In this statement, one could conclude that Henderson only focused on the mental drive of the person to perform physically. One would ask, what about people with mental disabilities (alzheimer’s, dementia, retardation), can they never have the level of health satisfaction as those people who do not have disabilities? What about people who are physically incapacitated but still have the ability to perform the basic human needs? If one seeks any form of assistance, will that person be considered not healthy because that person cannot do everything independently?

In Henderson’s definition of Nursing, she stated that Nursing is “Assisting the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that an individual would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge”.
  • In the stated definition of Nursing, Henderson mentioned activities that the nurse should do but failed to specify and define these roles and activities as well as the limits or boundaries that the nurse should keep in mind when providing nursing care. The extent to which the nurse should give was not specified.

More Limitations:
  • 14 COMPONENTS are prioritized; the connections among the components are not well defined.
  • Lack of interrelationship of factors and the influence of nursing care.
  • Dying process is not well explained as what is the role of the nurse.
  • Peaceful death is curious and significant nursing role.

Note: All diagrams are originally made by the contributors based on their understanding of Henderson's theory.

-Michael Vincent Mercado
-Philip Andrew Salarda
-Paula Marie Cajigal
-Paolo Guevarra


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