Nursing Theories


The nursing practice involves the use of different theories that helpthe professional to understand various situations. The practice usesboth nursing and non-nursing theories. Various theorists have madeimperative contributions to the nursing practice. The intensivenature of the profession and its dynamic nature bring on board theviews many scholars. Although scholars developed their conceptseither autonomously or by building on other works, nurses may apply acouple of theories to understand a single situation.

Virginia Henderson is one of the famed nurse theorists who inventedthe Nursing Need Theory. Henderson’s major focus is on the uniquedirection that nursing should take emanates from her deep knowledgeof nursing practice as well as years of active service (Smith, 2012).

The nursing need theory emphasizes the importance of a patient`sindependence that would facilitate a speedy recovery after they leavethe hospital. It also lays emphasis on the basic human needs that shetermed as instrumental in contributing to a patient’s independence(Smith, 2012).

The theory makes three assumptions that are inherent in the nursingpractice. First, nurses care for patients until they ascertain thatthe patients can take care of themselves. The assumption inclines tothe willingness and capacity of the nurses to take care of thepatients around the clock. Henderson made a third assumption thatnurses receive education at a minimum college level in both sciencesand arts (Smith, 2012).

Henderson addresses the components of individual, health, environmentand nursing. Individuals have basic needs that play an important rolein their health. In an individual, the mind and the body areinseparable and interdependent. The biological, psychological,sociological and spiritual needs work together for the completehealth of an individual. The environment is composed of sources ofinfluences that impact an individual’s life (Smith, 2012).Henderson lays emphasis on the impact of the community and the familyon an individual. The nursing practice should provide conditions thatwould facilitate patients’ independence.

In addressing illness, the theory focuses on the prevention ofillness that is usually cheap and easy to implement. In theoccurrence of a disease, the theory concentrates on curing thedisease (Alligood, 2013). An individual’s health is under theinfluence of age, emotions, and cultural practices among others.

Henderson describes nursing as what an individual would wish to do tohimself if they had the strength and the capacity. It is the primarypremise that explains why nurses work to make a patientindependently. A nurse is independent to perform the functions thatfall within his/her jurisdiction provided they do not collide withthe roles of a physician including diagnosis, prescription and makingprognosis (Alligood, 2013).

With the current use of technology, patients can get information froma nurse when still at home. Therefore, it requires a significantlevel of independence. Besides, the nursing burden is on the increasewith an inflated number of elderly patients. Since most of them areoutpatients, they need the capacity to take care of their health withminimal visits to the hospital.

Florence Nightingale is the pioneer of the modern practice of nursing(Zborowsky, 2014). She developed the environmental theory of nursingduring the Crimean war when she found a significant relationshipbetween individuals’ diseases and the environment they were living.The theory has seven assumptions.

First, it assumes that the forces of nature are always in action.Furthermore, Nightingale believed that human beings could achieveperfection in all their activities. As for the practice of nursing,she referred to it as a calling rather than just a profession(Zborowsky, 2014). Nursing, according to Nightingale is both scienceand art, and it is achieved through environmental alteration. Thepractice also requires a specific education base and training.Lastly, the theory works under the assumption that nursing isdistinct and separate from medicine (Zborowsky, 2014).

The primary focusing of nursing in this theory is to shape theenvironment by providing the optimal condition that support goohealth. According to the theory, fresh air, clean water, sufficientfood, an efficient drainage system and light are essential for goodhealth (Dossey &amp Keegan, 2012). An environment can be manipulatedto bear the desired characteristics that support good health.

According to Nightingale, nursing should signify the proper use offresh air, tranquility, clean environment and diet administration.All these should be done with the least expense to the patient. She,however, does not define human beings directly, but she explains therelationship they have with the environment. It is with theircapacity to make their environment habitable and safe for humanhabitation. Moreover, some of the practices they engage in have bothlong and short-term effects on their health (Dossey &amp Keegan,2012). The nursing practice should single out the desirable practicesand encourage people to uphold them. Nightingale considered theenvironment as a primary determinant if people’s health. The waythey relate to their environment determines the level of theirvulnerability.

Nightingale described it as a force of nature that nurses try to actagainst its impact. As for health, Nightingale did not have adefinite definition of health. She referred to health as the positiveof which pathology is negative or to unmake what God had made as adisease (Dossey &amp Keegan, 2012). Nurses should promote healthyliving to both the healthy and those with infirmities.

Conclusively, Nightingale theory is applicable in today’s nursingpractice, especially in the preventive practices. The dependency ofhuman health on the environment has not changed and as a nurse, it isinevitable to advise people on the importance of a clean environmentespecially for the communicable diseases.


Alligood, M. R.(2013). Nursing Theorists and Their Work. New York N.Y:Elsevier Health Sciences.

Dossey, B. M., &ampKeegan, L. (2012). Holistic Nursing. Burlington: Jones &ampBartlett Publishers.

Smith, J. M. (2012).Nursing Theorists and Their Work by MR Alligood and AM Tomey(Eds.)(Maryland Heights, MO: Mosby Elsevier, 2010). NursingScience Quarterly, 25(2), 201-202.

Zborowsky, T.(2014). The legacy of Florence Nightingale`s Environmental Theory:Nursing Research Focusing on the Impact of Healthcare Environments.HERD: Health Environments Research &amp Design Journal, 7(4),19-34.