Henderson V. The nature of nursing. Am J Nurs. 1964; 64:(8)62-68

NHS England. NHS Long term workforce plan. 2023. https// (accessed 31 October 2023)

Nursing and Midwifery Council. We regulate nursing associates. 2023a. https// (accessed 31 October 2023)

Nursing and Midwifery Council. The NMC register 1 April 2022-31 March 2023. 2023b. https// (accessed 31 October 2023)

Royal College of Nursing. RCN launches new definition of nursing. 2023a. https// (accessed 31 October 2023)

Royal College of Nursing. Definition and principles of nursing. 2023b. https// (accessed 31 October 2023)

Words matter: does the new RCN definition of nursing devalue the RNA?

09 November 2023
Volume 32 · Issue 20

Words matter. We exist in a culture where what a person or an organisation says matters. Individuals spend hours poring over texts and documents, seeking both overt and hidden meanings. The new Royal College of Nursing (RCN) definition of nursing may be such a document (RCN, 2023a).

Nursing has changed over the past few decades and therefore it seems reasonable that the definition of what it means to be a nurse would also change. Perhaps it is time to move on from Henderson's oft-cited and memorised description:

‘The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in 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 and to do this in such a way as to help him gain independence as rapidly as possible.’

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting British Journal of Nursing and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for nurses. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to clinical or professional articles

  • Unlimited access to the latest news, blogs and video content