Faye Abdellah Contribution to Nursing: A Catalyst for Transformative Healthcare

Faye Abdellah is a distinguished nursing theorist, military nurse, and leader in nursing research. Her groundbreaking work in developing the “21 Nursing Problems Theory” has had a significant impact on the field of nursing. This article explores Faye Abdellah contributions to nursing , her major concepts in nursing theory, and the lasting legacy she has left on patient-centered care.

Biography of Faye Glenn Abdellah

Faye Glenn Abdellah was born on March 13, 1919, in New York. With a father of Algerian heritage and a Scottish mother, she grew up in New Jersey and attended high school there. It was during her teenage years that Abdellah witnessed a tragic incident that would shape her career path.

The explosion of the hydrogen-fueled airship Hindenburg over Lakehurst in 1937 left a profound impact on her, prompting her to vow that she would learn to nurse and become a professional caregiver.

Abdellah’s journey in nursing began when she earned a nursing diploma from Fitkin Memorial Hospital’s School of Nursing, now known as Ann May School of Nursing. While this education was sufficient for nursing practice in the 1940s, Abdellah believed that nursing care should be based on research.

She went on to earn three degrees from Columbia University: a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1945, a Master of Arts in Physiology in 1947, and a Doctor of Education in 1955.

Faye Abdellah Contribution to Nursing – Theories and Frameworks:

The Twenty-One Nursing Problems:

One of Abdellah’s most significant contributions to nursing was her development of the “Twenty-One Nursing Problems,” which she outlined in her influential book, “Patient-Centered Approaches to Nursing.”

This framework emphasized the need for nurses to address patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs holistically.

The twenty-one problems cover a wide range of patient concerns, including pain, nutrition, hygiene, and emotional support, among others.

The 21 nursing problems are divided into three categories:

  • Physical needs: These include problems related to the patient’s physical health, such as maintaining a supply of oxygen, promoting optimal activity, and preventing infection.
  • Sociological needs: These include problems related to the patient’s social and emotional well-being, such as maintaining a positive self-image and coping with stress.
  • Interpersonal needs: These include problems related to the patient’s interactions with others, such as communicating effectively and making decisions.

The 21 nursing problems are not meant to be an exhaustive list of all possible nursing problems, but they provide a framework for nurses to identify and address the most common problems that patients face.

The 21 nursing problems are:

  1. To maintain a safe environment.
  2. To promote effective communication.
  3. To provide for adequate rest and sleep.
  4. To promote a balanced diet.
  5. To facilitate the elimination of body wastes.
  6. To maintain fluid balance.
  7. To prevent infection.
  8. To promote physical comfort.
  9. To promote optimal activity, exercise, and rest.
  10. To maintain good body mechanics.
  11. To prevent and correct deformities.
  12. To maintain personal hygiene and grooming.
  13. To promote safety through the prevention of accidents, injury, or other trauma.
  14. To promote mental health.
  15. To promote emotional stability.
  16. To provide for an accepting and supportive environment.
  17. To assist with the activities of daily living.
  18. To help the patient to understand his or her condition.
  19. To help the patient to cope with the effects of his or her condition.
  20. To help the patient to prepare for discharge.
  21. To help the patient to achieve a satisfying life.
Faye abdellah contribution to nursing
Faye abdellah contribution to nursing: a catalyst for transformative healthcare 2

Patient-Centered Care:

Abdellah’s work emphasized the importance of patient-centered care as a core principle in nursing. She believed that healthcare professionals should treat patients as individuals with unique needs, values, and preferences.

This approach involves actively involving patients in their care plans, listening to their concerns, and collaborating with them to make informed decisions about their health.

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Research Contributions:

Abdellah’s valuable research contributions further solidified her status as a nursing pioneer. Her studies focused on various aspects of patient care, including geriatric nursing, mental health, and nursing education.

Her research paved the way for evidence-based nursing practices and shaped the understanding of nursing care in diverse healthcare settings.

Impact on Nursing Education:

Abdellah’s commitment to nursing education extended beyond her own experiences. She advocated for the importance of higher education in nursing, encouraging nurses to pursue advanced degrees to enhance their knowledge and skills.

Her work influenced curriculum development, leading to the integration of patient-centered care and holistic nursing practices in nursing education programs worldwide.

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Cultivating Future Nursing Leaders

Faye Abdellah’s transformative journey, from a dedicated public health nurse to a revered nursing scholar, serves as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring nurses. Her story underscores the power of unyielding pursuit of knowledge, innovation, and empathy.

By internalizing Abdellah’s principles, nursing students are poised to become not only skilled caregivers but also advocates, educators, and leaders in a healthcare landscape marked by constant change.

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Legacy and Continuing Influence:

Faye Abdellah’s contributions continue to shape the nursing profession and inspire future generations. Her theories and frameworks serve as guiding principles for nursing practice and education, fostering a patient-centered approach that prioritizes individual needs.

Today, nursing students are encouraged to study Abdellah’s work, gaining insights into the significant impact they can have on patient care.

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Faye Abdellah’s contributions to nursing have left an indelible mark on the profession and patient care as a whole. Her theories, research, and dedication to patient-centered care have revolutionized the way healthcare professionals approach their practice.

As aspiring nursing students, embracing Abdellah’s principles will enable you to provide holistic, compassionate care that addresses patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.


1. What is the most important impact of Abdellah’s theory to the nursing practice?

It helped transform the focus of the profession from being ‘disease- centered’ to ‘patient – centered’.

2. What are the components of Abdellah theory?

  • The physical, sociological, and emotional needs of the patient
  • The types of interpersonal relationships between the nurse and the patient
  • The common elements of patient care.

3. What did Abdellah define as the object of nursing?

Abdellah referd to the object of nursing as ‘patient‘ rather than client or consumer.


  1. “Patient-Centered Care: A Model for Restructuring” by Faye G. Abdellah
  2. “Contemporary Nursing Knowledge: Analysis and Evaluation of Nursing Models and Theories” by Jacqueline Fawcett
  3. “The Nurse as Caregiver for the Terminal Patient and His Family” by Faye G. Abdellah and Rose Gallagher
  4. “Faye G. Abdellah: Twenty-One Nursing Problems” by Janice Rider Ellis and Celia Love Hartley

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