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Theory-Guided Practice: The Need Theory


The delivery of medical care in hospital settings plays a critical role in treating and recovering patients. Medical practitioners have come up with numerous theories to explain their activities and guide their practice in the provision of healthcare services to patients in various settings. Nursing theorists have made notable contributions to the medical practice since they have created diverse theories that apply to different health aspects (Mudd et al., 2020). Based on the six criteria of the hospital setting, origin of the theory, paradigms, simplicity, needs of patient, and understandability, the need theory by Virginia Henderson was selected. This theory is one of the key theories that apply to the delivery of healthcare in clinical settings. The need theory holds that healthcare providers’ role is to promote patient independence and hasten the recovery process (Gligor & Domnariu, 2019). Considerations of patients’ physiological, psychological, social, and spiritual needs are integral in optimizing care and accelerating the hospital setting’s healing process. The need theory’s tenets show that it suits the medical practice in the hospital setting because it covers numerous care aspects.

Clinical Setting

A hospital is the selected clinical setting since it is a place where patients receive medical care from healthcare providers. Effective interaction between patients and medical providers is dependent on the understanding of diverse needs of care. In the health care system, hospitals allow diagnosis of diseases, treatment of illnesses, nursing care delivery, promotion of health through education, prevention of diseases, and medical research performance. In essence, hospitals offer comprehensive healthcare services to patients, which match their unique needs and conditions. Mudd et al. (2020) explain that concerted efforts of doctors, nurses, specialists, technicians, and subordinate staff ensure that patients receive safe and effective healthcare services. Each participant in the hospital must understand patients’ needs and satisfy them to achieve effective treatment and undergo efficient recovery. Therefore, since a hospital’s ability to satisfy patients’ diverse needs depends on its different parts, the need theory is suitable in describing it.

Origin of the Theory

The need theory originates from the vast experience in hospital and in-depth knowledge in nursing of Virginia Henderson. As a nurse, Virginia Henderson made a significant contribution to nursing because she dedicated her knowledge, skills, and experience to improving nursing care in a hospital setting (Mudd et al., 2020). Her work earned her numerous awards and recognition as the best nurse in the 20th century because she came up with the need theory and revolutionized the way nurses practice their work. In her theory, Virginia Henderson identified 14 key elements that comprise human needs for effective treatment and recovery of patients. These 14 elements of human needs are a healthy diet, excretion, enough rest, physical fitness, a comfortable dress code, maintenance of body temperature, appropriate hygiene, avoid hazards, self-expression, belief system, sense of accomplishment, participation in recreation, and access care (Gligor & Domnariu, 2019). These elements confirm that the theory originated from social, spiritual, psychological, and physiological knowledge, which Virginia Henderson had acquired over time.

Paradigms as a Basis for Choice

The need theory is appropriate in a hospital setting because it entails different paradigms of nursing. Deliktas et al. (2019) identify person, health, environment, and nursing as four significant medical care paradigms. In the need theory, a person is a client of a hospital with primary health needs requiring satisfaction. A person comprises physiological, social, psychological, and spiritual components, requiring satisfaction in a hospital. In the paradigm of health, hospitals provide healthcare resources and equipment for patients to gain optimal health and attain independence. Additionally, as an environment for diagnosing, treating, and managing patients, hospitals offer conducive settings for optimal health conditions. Nursing is a critical paradigm in a hospital because it helps patients attain independence and perform daily living activities. Hence, the need theory suits paradigms of a person, health, environment, and nursing because they exist in a hospital setting.


The need theory is simple for healthcare providers to implement in providing medical services to patients. Although the need theory comprises 14 elements, the first nine elements form physiological needs, the 10th and 14th elements constitute psychological, the 11th one is spiritual, and the 12th and 13th elements cover the sociological aspect of a person (Gligor & Domnariu, 2019). Breakdown the 14 elements of the need theory simplifies its implementation and satisfaction of patients’ primary needs (Mudd et al., 2020). Moreover, the theory’s assumptions are simple because they focus on recovery and independence in a hospital. A central assumption is that healthcare providers’ role is to support patients and expedite their recovery process. In this view, this assumption reminds healthcare providers to perform their work diligently with determination to aid patients to attain their independence. Another simple assumption is that patients have the will to regain their health status when assisted appropriately by caregivers. The need theory’s simplicity makes it suitable for a conventional hospital with minimal resources and equipment.

Patient’s Needs

The need theory suits the hospital setting because it focuses on the diverse needs of patients. According to the need theory, patients have various needs that call for satisfaction to attain speedy recovery and independence during treatment. The theory identifies that patients have 14 elements of healthcare needs that healthcare providers ought to provide in hospital. These elements are a healthy diet, removal of waste, adequate rest, physical fitness, a comfy dress code, constant body temperature, suitable hygiene, avoidance of hazards, self-expression, belief system, sense of achievement, partaking in recreation, and access to medical care (Gligor & Domnariu, 2019). These elements are comprehensive since they entail patients’ social, psychological, spititual, and physiological needs.


The need theory is understandable because it encompasses patients’ everyday needs and employs scientific tenets to elucidate its relevance in medical care. As healthcare providers have the knowledge and medical practice skills, they can understand the need theory and its application in hospitals. Moreover, since the need theory covers four medical care paradigms, namely, person, environment, health, and nursing, its scope is understandable (Deliktas et al., 2019). Multidisciplinary aspects of sociology, belief systems, psychology, and physiology are comprehensible in medical care. Thus, the need theory’s comprehensibility makes it appropriate in the delivery of healthcare services in hospitals.


The analysis of the need theory shows that it fits the six criteria employed in its selection. As a place where patients receive care, hospitals allows healthcare providers to offer effective services. The origin of the need theory is the extensive experience and nursing skills of Virginia Henderson during the 20th century. Paradigms of person, health, nursing, and environment applies in the need theory. Since the theory focuses on the primary needs of patients, its application is simple and easy. The identification of 14 elements offers a comprehensive way of understanding patients’ needs. The multidisciplinary approach to medical care using sociological, physiological, spiritual, and psychological aspects makes the need theory understandable.


Deliktas, A., Korukcu, O., Aydin, R., & Kabukcuoglu, K. (2019). Nursing students’ perceptions of nursing metaparadigms: A phenomenological study. The Journal of Nursing Research, 27(5). 1–9. Web.

Gligor, L., & Domnariu, C. C. (2019). Patient care approach using nursing theories: Comparative analysis of Orem’s self-care deficit theory and Henderson’s model. Acta Medica Transilvanica, 25(2), 11–14. Web.

Mudd, A., Feo, R., Conroy, T., & Kitson, A. (2020). Where and how does fundamental care fit within seminal nursing theories: A narrative review and synthesis of key nursing concepts. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 29(19-20), 3652–3666. Web.

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