This paper will discuss Virginia Henderson, her theory, and how her theory can be applied to the health promotion of prenatal care with childbirth education. Henderson’s Needs Theory is a great concept for this specialized area because it incorporates the nursing of well individuals. Instructing expectant mothers on self-care and care of the unborn infant provides the best prospect for a healthy birth.
Virginia Avenel Henderson was born in Kansas City, Missouri on November 30, 1897 to parents Daniel B and Lucy Minor (Abbot) Henderson. She was the fifth of eight children. Her mother grew up in Virginia and her father, Daniel B Henderson was an attorney for Native American Indians.
She began her nursing education by attending the U.S. Army School of Nursing at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, D.C. She completed the curriculum and earned her Diploma of Nursing in 1921. After graduation she worked at the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service for 2 years. In 1923 she was offered a position teaching nursing at the Norfolk Protestant Hospital in Virginia. She accepted the position and taught nursing students at the hospital for several years. In 1929 Virginia Henderson decided that she needed more education and enrolled in the Teachers College at Columbia University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in 1932 and her Master’s Degree in 1934. Subsequently, she became a member of the faculty at Columbia University and began teaching nursing students again until 1948. In 1953 Virginia Henderson joined the Yale School of Nursing. Here she ended her career as a traditional teacher and became a lifelong researcher working as a research associate for Yale School of Nursing. During her time at Yale University, Virginia became a leader of nursing and was widely published. She completed a revision of Bertha Harmer's Textbook of the Principles and Practice of Nursing which became widely used by nursing students from all over the country. Another important publication completed during Henderson's years at Yale University was a collaborative piece with Leo Simonds titled Nursing Research A Survey and Assessment. This piece moved nursing research away from studying nurses to studying the differences that nurses can make in people’s lives. Most notably she published several books including the Nature of Nursing in 1966 and Principles and Practice of Nursing. These works communicated her beliefs about the essence of nursing and forever changed the definition of modern nursing.
Many honors were bestowed upon Virginia Henderson throughout her life. She held honorary doctorate degrees from thirteen universities including Yale University, Boston College, and Thomas Jefferson University to name a few. She was selected to American Nurses Association Hall of Fame and had the Sigma Theta Tau International Library named in her honor. She was honored by the Virginia Nurses Association in 1988 and presented with the Virginia Historical Nurse Leadership Award. The Virginia Nurses Association recognized Henderson as one of fifty-one Pioneer Nurses in Virginia in 2000. She was also an international nursing icon during her time. In June 1985, she was presented with the first Christianne Reimann Prize by the International Council of Nurses recognizing her works as gifts to the world of nursing.
Sadly, Virginia Avenel Henderson passed away on March 19, 1996 at the age of 98. Her life’s work in nursing changed the minds and hearts of hundreds of nurses everywhere. She recognized outcome orientation, health promotion, continuity of care, and patient advocacy as critical key factors in providing the best patient care. She left behind a legacy that changed the definition of nursing care with the development of the Needs Theory.
A nursing theory specifically provides a set of definitions, propositions and interrelated concepts that gives a systematic approach to