Benner and Henderson’s Nursing Philosophies

A number of theories that explain the nature of nursing have guided the evolution of the practice. This paper will compare Henderson’s Need Theory and Benners From Novice to Expert by discussing main concepts and relationships between their nursing philosophies.

Benner’s theory reflects on nursing expertise and proficiency by showing relationships between theory and practice. The theory stresses the importance of acquired knowledge and presumes theoretical approaches to nursing (Ward, 2004). Henderson’s need theory develops a holistic approach of the sociological, psychological, spiritual, and biological components of an individual (Basavanthappa, 2007). To a certain extent, the paradigm highlights the biophysical needs of patients by proposing that individual fitness depends on their ability to function independently.

An examination of the hypotheses contained in both models provides a singular focus of fundamental positive outcomes and quality of nursing. In addition, both models comprehend the need of adequate scientific training and skills. Henderson emphasises on the need for nurses to receive training in both skills and science from college while Benner recognises the importance of both scientific and pragmatic preparation.

Even though both paradigms were based on the common good of improving the quality of nursing care, they have a number of differences. According to Henderson, nursing is guided by the premise that nurses should offer care to patients until they are capable of caring for themselves, be willing to serve at all times of the day and undergo scientific and skills training up to college level. In contrast, Benner believes experience is acquired through progressive training levels from beginner to expert (Ward, 2004). These steps pull together both theory and experience concepts. For instance, in the case of a critically ill, post-operative patient, a nurse notes vital signs, including assessment of cardiac rhythm and blood pressure, and waits for a physician to provide advice along the necessary physiological care. Likewise, an expert nurse integrates cardiovascular expertise and other body procedures to guide care. From the example above, an expert is able to discover, integrate and reply to specific elements presented by a patient.

Henderson believes nursing insights are based on will, knowledge and skills to serve a patient (Basavanthappa, 2007). For instance, when caring for a geriatric patient, nurses provide feeding and sanitation care until patients are able to care for themselves. They do not diagnose or prescribe treatment, but rather prepare care plans based on their opinion. This makes a distinction between the two theories, as according to Benner’s nursing facts are assumed through the combination of research, characterisation and practical clinical understanding.

Although the theories differ in a number of ways, they are applied jointly in a respiratory care unit. For instance, in the event of a patient receiving mechanical ventilation, Benner’s theory is given by expert nurses who ensure mechanical ventilation is in good condition. In the event of any alarm sound, they check for possible causes and manually ventilate the patient until they reconnect the breathing device. They also review nursing interventions to be applied. Considerably, in the same context, the need theory is applied through educating the patient about special abdominal breathing and coughing techniques. The nurse also develops positional interventions like helping the patient maintain positions that maximise chest expansion.

In summation, the need theory sheds more light on the need to promote and prevent health and cure diseases, whereas From Novice to Expert is founded on the ability of nurses to have unquestionable clinical expertise and experience. Interestingly, both models are applicable in nursing practice and research.


Basavanthappa, B. (2007). Nursing Theories. New Delhi, India: Jaypee Brothers Medical Publishers (P) Ltd.

Ward, W. (2004). From novice to expert to mentor: shaping the future. American Journal of Critical Care, 13(6), 448-450.

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