Virginia Avenel Henderson
“First Lady of Nursing”
“First Truly International Nurse”
“The nurse is temporarily the consciousness of the unconscious, the love of life for the suicidal, the leg of the amputee, the eyes of the newly blind, a means of locomotion for the infant, knowledge and confidence for the mother, the mouthpiece for those too weak or withdrawn to speak and so on.”
World War I developed her interest in nursing in 1918.
She was educated at the U.S. Army School of Nursing (1921) then worked as a staff nurse of the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service in
1922, began teaching in
1929, teaching supervisor in the clinics of
As a researcher, writer and author:
- Bertha Harmer’s Textbook of the Principles and Practice of Nursing, 4th edition, 1939.
- Bertha Harmer’s Textbook of the Principles and Practice of Nursing, 5th edition, 1955, contains her definition of nursing.
- Basic Principles of Nursing Care, 1960.
- The Nature of Nursing, 1966.
- The Principles and Practice of Nursing, 6th edition, 1978.
In 1953, she joined Yale School of Nursing.
Nursing Studies Index (4 volume) (Director)
Interagency Council on Information Resources for Nursing (co-founder)
New England Regional Council on Library Resources for Nursing (co-founder)
International Nursing Index Editorial Advisory Committee (Chairperson)
Honorary doctorates from University of Western Ontario, University of Rochester, Rush University, Pace University, Catholic University of America, Yale University, Old Dominion University, Boston College, Thomas Jefferson University, Emory University, and many distinguished lectures from Great Britain's Royal College of Nursing to the Sorbonne to the Japanese Nursing Association.
June 1985, she awarded the first Christianne Reimann Prize by ICN.
Fellowship of the American
Honorary Membership in the
Fellowship in the Royal
1983, Sigma Theta Tau International’s Mary Tolle Wright Founders Award for Leadership, one of the honor society’s highest honors.
1988, ANA citation
She recognized early on the importance of an outcomes orientation, health promotion, continuity of care, patient advocacy, multidisciplinary scholarship, integration of the arts and sciences, and boundary spanning.
Her elegant definition of nursing, with its emphasis on complementing the patient's capabilities, provides a clear direction for what nursing should be.
With her silky drawl, bright blue eyes, wispy curls, and beautiful clothes, Miss Henderson was the embodiment of an impish Southern gentlewoman. She was the most gracious hostess I have ever encountered, and had a wicked sense of humor.
She was the incarnation of those Greek verities--the good, the true, and the beautiful. She was shaped by the aesthetic that produced beautiful surroundings in honey and rose colored tones (she gave up the idea of becoming an interior designer/architect when there was a need for nurses in World War I), as well as elegant arguments embellished by references to a literature much broader than just the nursing literature.
Even when her memory and hearing started to fail, she was not limited, because her curiosity and interest in people elicited from them an engagement in the issues that then set in motion her own creative juices.
Virginia Henderson was arguably the most famous nurse of the 20th century. Because that was the case, Sigma Theta Tau's International Nursing Library bears her name. She was only willing to permit use of her name if the electronic networking system to be developed would advance the work of staff nurses by getting to them current and jargon-free information wherever they were based.
Died on March 19, 1996 at the age of 98, after partaking chocolate cake and ice cream and saying goodbyes to her family and friends. A family-sponsored memorial service was held at Battel Chapel on the campus of
An accomplished author, avid researcher and a visionary.
Definition of Nursing and 14 Basic Human Needs
- Bertha Harmer’s Textbook of the Principles and Practice of Nursing.
- Involvement as the committee member in a regional conference of the National Nursing Council, 1946.
- Annie W. Goodrich, Caroline Stackpole, Jean Broadhurst, Dr. Edward Thorndike, Dr. George Deaver and Ida Jean Orlando (Pelletier).
Use of Empirical Evidence
- Stockpole – maintaining physiological balance
- Bernard’s psychosomatic theory
- Thorndike and Maslow’s human needs
Components of a person is operationalized by the 14 basic human needs, which under conditions of ill-health will require assistance by the family and/or nurse.
14 Fundamental Needs of Human
1. breathe normally
2. eat and drink adequately
3. eliminate body wastes
4. move and maintain desirable postures
5. sleep and rest
6. select suitable clothes—dress and undress
7. maintain body temperature within normal range by adjusting clothing and modifying the environment
8. keep the body clean and well groomed and protect the integument
9. avoid dangers in the environment and avoid injuring others
10. communicate with others in expressing emotions, needs, fears, or opinions
11. worship according to one’s faith
12. work in such a way that there is a sense of accomplishment
13. play or participate in various forms of recreation
14. learn, discover, or satisfy the curiosity that leads to normal development and health and use the available health facilities.
A complete and independent being with biological, sociological and spiritual components
The function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of activities contributing to health or its recovery
The patient’s ability to perform independently the 14 basic needs
The effects of 7 components (light, temperature, air movement, atmospheric pressure, proper waste disposal, absence of injurious chemicals, cleanliness of surroundings) on the life and development of a person
Nurse Functions in Relation with the Patient, Physician and the Health Team
- Nurse-Patient Relationship
- As a substitute for the patient
- As a helper for the patient
- As a partner with the patient
- Nurse-Physician Relationship
- Nurse as a Member of the Health Team
- Assessment phase – assess the patients for 14 fundamental needs and what is/are lacking.
- Planning phase – plan to meet the needs fit to the doctors prescribed plan
- Implementation phase – uses the 14 basic needs in answering the factors contributes to the illness
- Evaluation phase – decides whether goals are met or not
Development of 3 phases of curriculum development that students should progress in their learning.
She supported developing nurses at baccalaureate level and advocated the use of library for research purposes. Development of the nurses responsibility to identify problems, validates practice and improving methods of care and reassuring the effectiveness of care. The concept that illness arise from the lacking needs gives rise to different researches.
- It is considered as a grand theory or philosophy in the early days.
3. Derivable Consequences
Octaviano, E.F. & Balita, C.E. (2008). Theoretical Foundations of Nursing: The Philippine
Perspective. Philippines: Ultimate Learning Series.
Tomey, A.M. & Alligood, M.R. (2002). Nursing Theorists and Their Work. 5th ed. Missouri: