Henderson is famous for a definition of nursing: "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" (first published in Henderson & Nite 1978, p. 5, 1955 ed.). She is known as "the first lady of nursing" and has been called, "arguably the most famous nurse of the 20th century" and "the quintessential nurse of the twentieth century". In a 1996 article in the Journal of Advanced Nursing Edward Halloran wrote, "Virginia Henderson's written works will be viewed as the 20th century equivalent of those of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale."
Henderson was born on November 30, 1897 in Kansas City, Missouri to Daniel B. Henderson, a lawyer who worked with Native Americans, and Lucy Minor (Abbot) Henderson. She was the fifth of their eight children. She grew up in Virginia where she received her early education at her grandfather's community boy's school.
Education and career
Henderson's career in public health nursing began in 1921 at the Henry Street Settlement in Manhattan, New York. She worked for the Visiting Nurse Association of Washington, D.C. from 1921 to 1923. She was the first full-time nursing instructor in Virginia where she worked at the Norfolk Presbyterian Hospital from 1924 to 1929. Henderson taught at Teachers College, Columbia University from 1934 to 1948. In 1953 she became a research associate at Yale School of Nursing transitioning to emeritus status in 1971 continuing to serve in that position until 1996.
She was the author of the 1939 (4th ed.) revision of Bertha Harmer's Textbook of Principles and Practices of Nursing when the original author died. She was co-author of the fifth (1955) and sixth (1978) editions. Until 1975 the fifth edition was the most widely used nursing textbook in English and Spanish. She developed one of the major nursing theories. "Henderson's Model" has been used throughout the world for standardizing nursing practice. The Nursing Studies Index, a twelve-year project she directed, covered the first sixty years of nursing research. It was considered an essential reference for years. Another important publication was, Nursing Research: A Survey and Assessment written with Leo Simmons. Her work is credited with shifting the focus of nursing research "from studying nurses to studying the differences that nurses can make in people's lives."
Henderson has received numerous honors. The International Council of Nurses presented her with the inaugural Christiane Reimann Prize in 1985 considered the most prestigious award in nursing. She was an honorary fellow of the United Kingdom's Royal College of Nursing (FRCN). She was selected to the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame and has received honorary degrees from thirteen universities. The Virginia Henderson Repository an online resource for nursing research that grew out of the Virginia Henderson International Nursing Library at Sigma Theta Tau is named in her honor.
- — (1935). Medical and Surgical Asepsis. The Nursing Education Bulletin. New York: Dept. of Nursing Education, Teachers College, Columbia University.
- —; International Council of Nurses (ICN) (1961) . Basic Principles of Nursing Care. London: ICN. OCLC 474222238.
- —; Nite, Gladys; Harmer, Bertha; International Council of Nurses (1997). Principles and Practice of Nursing. New York: Macmillan. OCLC 41028074. Originally published: (1978); New York: Macmillan. Henderson was also author of the 1939 revised edition and coauthor of the 4th (1955) edition.
- —; Yale University Nursing Index Staff (1984). Nursing Studies Index: An Annotated Guide to Reported Studies, Research in Progress, Research Methods and Historical Materials in Periodicals, Books, and Pamphlets Published in English. Volumes I-IV. New York: Garland. ISBN 9780824065157. Originally published: V. IV (1963), V. I (1966), V. II (1970), V. III (1972); Philadelphia: JB Lippincott.
- Simmons, Leo W.; — (1964). Nursing Research : A Survey and Assessment. Volumes I-V. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. OCLC 451308225.
- — (1991). The Nature of Nursing : A Definition and its Implications for Practice, Research, and Education : Reflections After 25 Years (Henderson 1966 Rev. and expanded ed.). New York: National League for Nursing Press. ISBN 9780887374944.
- — (1995). Halloran, Edward J., ed. A Virginia Henderson Reader : Excellence in Nursing. New York: Springer. ISBN 9780826188304.
- McBride, Angela Barron (1996). "Remembering the first lady of nursing". Reflections in Nursing Leadership (Sigma Theta Tau).
- Henderson, Virginia (1966). The Nature of Nursing: A Definition and its Implications for Practice, Research, and Education. New York: Macmillan Publishing. p. 15. OCLC 602517253.
- Halloran, Edward J. (1996). "Virginia Henderson and her timeless writings". Journal of Advanced Nursing 23: 17–27. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.1996.tb03130.x.
- "Virginia Avenel Henderson". Virginia Nursing Hall of Fame, Virginia Nursing Archives. Special Collections and Archives, Tompkins-McCaw Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.
- Thomas, Jr., Robert McG. (March 22, 1996). "Virginia Henderson, 98, teacher of nurses, dies". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
- Basavanthappa, B. T. (2007). "Chapter 4: Henderson's Unique Function of Nurses". Nursing Theories. Jaypee Brothers. pp. 61–71. ISBN 9788180619632.
- Fitzpatrick, Joyce J.; Kazer, Meredith (2011). Encyclopedia of Nursing Research (3rd ed.). Springer. pp. 219–20. ISBN 9780826107503.
- Henderson 1984.
- Simmons & Henderson 1964.
- "Virginia A. Henderson (1897-1996) 1996 Inductee". American Nurses Association website.
- Smith, James Patrick; Henderson, Virginia (1989). Virginia Henderson: The First Ninety Years. London: Scutari. ISBN 9781871364286.
- Virginia Henderson (WMV). Distinguished Leaders in Nursing. National Library of Medicine and Sigma Theta Tau. 1978. A video interview by Anne Bavier and Eleanor Herrman with introduction by Nell Watts.
- The Henderson Repository, (Sigma Theta Tau).