fundamental nursing skills 

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In 1859 Florence Nightingale suggested that ‘The elements of nursing are all but unknown’. It could be argued that this statement remains true today: some groups maintain that nursing is about keeping clients clean and well nourished; others that it is about making clients feel safe; others focus purely on the psychological needs of clients; and yet others think that it is about carrying out physical tasks delegated by, but remaining under the auspices of, doctors (Hilton 1997).


In looking back down the well-trodden path it can be seen that over the past 150 years or so nursing has slowly evolved from something that was considered essentially women’s work, which could be undertaken by any ‘good woman’, was largely concerned with caring for the sick, and with providing the best environment for nature to take its course, to being something that is very complex, skilled and sometimes highly technical, involving health education and promotion as well as meeting a wide variety of illness-related needs of clients. It is now an occupation that attracts both men and women whose pay constitutes more than a bottle of gin (Hilton 1997).

The nursing process and nursing models

Whilst the nursing process offers a systematic way of looking at care delivery, on its own it is not particularly useful as it does not give any indication as to what to assess. It indicates that care should be planned, implemented and evaluated but again offers little direction as to how to do this. Consequently a number of practitioners and nurse theorists have offered theoretical frameworks or models.

One such model is the ‘Activities of Living Model’, proposed by Nancy Roper, Winifred Logan and Alison Tierney (1996). Basing their ideas on previous work by Maslow (1958) and Virginia Henderson (1960), and Nancy Roper herself, Roper, Logan and Tierney set out to describe what they believed everyday living involves for individuals, and from this identify the necessary components of nursing.

The 12 activities of living are:

  • 1 breathing
  • 2 mobilizing
  • 3 personal cleansing and dressing
  • 4 maintaining a safe environment
  • 5 eating and drinking
  • 6 communicating
  • 7 dying
  • 8 eliminating
  • 9 maintaining body temperature
  • 10 expressing sexuality
  • 11 working and playing
  • 12 sleeping.