Virginia Henderson’s Need Theory

“Nursing theories mirror different realities, throughout their development; they reflected the interests of nurses of that time.”


  • “The Nightingale of Modern Nursing”
  • “Modern-Day Mother of Nursing.”
  • “The 20th century Florence Nightingale.”
  • Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1897.
  • Diploma in Nursing from the Army School of Nursing at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, D.C. in 1921.
  • Worked at the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service for 2 years after graduation.
  • In 1923, started teaching nursing at the Norfolk Protestant Hospital in Virginia
  • In 1929, entered Teachers College at Columbia University for  Bachelor’s Degree in 1932, Master’s Degree in 1934.
  • Joined Columbia as a member of the faculty, remained until 1948.
  • Since 1953, a research associate at Yale University School of Nursing.
  • Recipient of numerous recognitions.
  • Honorary doctoral degrees from the Catholic University of America, Pace University, University of Rochester, University of Western Ontario, Yale University
  •  In 1985, honored at the Annual Meeting of the Nursing and Allied Health Section of the Medical Library Association.
  • Died: March 19, 1996.
  • In 1939, she revised: Harmer’s classic textbook of nursing for its 4th edition, and later wrote the 5th; edition, incorporating her personal definition of nursing (Henderson,1991)

Theory Background

  • She called her definition of nursing her “concept” (Henderson1991)…


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