Virginia Henderson (1897 – 1996)

Inspiration for Activism!

  • Known as the quintessential nurse of the 20th century because of her abiding commitment to the fundamental values of nursing.
  • Prolific author of works that have become “the soul of modern nursing.”
  • Her definition of nursing became the internationally adopted statement of nursing (watch her recite this definition in the video below!) — “The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health or its recovery (or to peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will or knowledge”
  • Authored three of the “Principles and Practice of Nursing” text that elaborated on the knowledge base necessary to act in terms of her definition of nursing.
  • Conducted a survey and assessment of nursing research that shifted nursing research away from studying nurses to studying the differences that nurses can make in people’s lives.
  • Published a “Nursing Studies” Index that captured the intellectual history of the first six decades of the 20th century.

More information here and here and here.  Also see A Virginia Henderson Reader: Excellence in Nursing, edited by Edward Holleran

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