Basic Human Need


Beyond being astounded by the resourcefulness of the Ghanaian people, one is left to wonder about how the happiness of those who live in this country is unaffected by the possessions that they have. When travelling to the village it was obvious to see the happiness of all the children. They were always smiling, laughing, playing, being entertained by small items such as rocks and sticks, as well as mesmerized by photography (courtesy of our abundance of digital cameras among our group). One of the reasons I was so taken aback by this was our Western culture. We are consistently trying to “keep up with the Jones’”, never finding complete satisfaction in our belongings and striving for a need for “new and improved.” I am not implying that either culture is right or wrong, but it makes one question basic human need and what this means when applying it to nursing practice.

Virginia Henderson was an influential nurse who identified fourteen basic human needs to base your nursing care around when applying the nursing process of assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation and evaluation to patients (Dijkstra, 2012). They are as follows: breathe normally; eat and drink adequately; eliminates body wastes; sleep and rest; move and maintain desirable postures; suitable clothing; maintenance of body temperature; cleanly and well-groomed; avoid environmental dangers; communicates with others in expressing emotion, needs, fears, or opinions; worship according to one’s faith, work in such a way there is a sense of accomplishment; play or participate in recreation and finally learn, discover or satisfy the curiosity that leads to normal development and health (Dikjstra, 2012). The first nine of the fourteen needs are physiological, meaning they are interrelated to the physical health of the human body. The tenth and fourteenth are psychological, pertaining to the mental or emotional state of the patient. The twelfth and thirteenth are sociological, specifically referring to developmental goals of feeling accomplished and the eleventh being related to spirituality.

Henderson suggests that each of the fourteen components should be assessed for in the patient according to their ability to perform the component on their own (Kearney, 2001). One’s ability to function independently in the component shows a decreased need for intervention by the nurse (Kearney, 2001). For example; if someone can breathe normally, there is no need for intervention, whereas, if someone is gasping for air, they may need supplemental oxygen applied. Each patient’s care plan should be individualized by the nurse to meet their basic needs (Kearney, 2001). Now what does all this research have to do with my observations in the village?

While being in Ghana, I have often found myself wondering how those around me can be so happy with so little (in comparison with our materialistic culture in the West). I have come to realize in our fast paced life and society, we are often caught missing or skipping out on the small things. We are looking beyond basic human need for happiness and consistently striving to have more. At what point do we find ourselves being content? Henderson completed a thorough theory to which nurses are able to apply basic human need to patients, but how can one move forward yet another step and apply this to everyday life? This is something I will now strive for. I want to enjoy the parts of my life that are sometimes clouded with input from others, from media and from our culture. I am blessed to be able to say that I have always had the freedom to perform each of the fourteen components of basic human need without assistance and for the time being, I will be utterly grateful for this gift in itself.


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