Theories in Nursing: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

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Page count 5
Word count 1201
Read time 5 min
Topic Health
Type Essay
Language 🇺🇸 US

Nursing research and practice are based on theories that provide a solid framework for studying the issues related to nursing and implementing evidence-based patient care. In the search for continuous improvements, new approaches emerge by introducing interdisciplinary connections. Indeed, the knowledge, principles, and concepts of multiple disciplines, including sociology, psychology, and others, apply to nursing. In particular, psychology has provided an array of valuable theoretical frameworks for building the advanced principles of nursing care. The usage of a theory in nursing research allows for structuring the overall research process, detecting relevant concepts, and emphasizing research objectives by providing context for findings.

The Theory of Needs was introduced by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation (“Maslow’s Theory of Needs,” 2020). It has been developed as a motivational theory aimed at explaining the principles of human motivation for performing particular activities. The author of this theory suggested that people are particularly motivated to satisfy their basic needs but continuously aim at meeting more sophisticated needs pertaining to spheres of life that reach beyond physiology. In such a manner, people are moving up the hierarchy of needs, where physiological ones form the first level of needs and the needs for self-actualization constitute the top point of the hierarchy.

Maslow proposed five distinctive categories of needs, each of which is located in a particular place within the hierarchy. The first and the basic need is located at the bottom of the pyramid which illustrates the visual representation of the hierarchy. Moving from the bottom to the top, an individual meets their needs and strives for wellness. Overall, there are physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. Firstly, physiological needs include all the requirements that relate to maintaining bodily functions and wellness. Namely, food consumption, sleep, water, elimination, and other issues are included in the basic physiological needs. Secondly, safety needs include the fulfillment of requirements that satisfy the feelings of being safe. They include the availability of resources, security of the environment, health, employment, and others (“Maslow’s Theory of Needs,” 2020).

Thirdly, the belongingness needs constitute the category of human needs that relate to the feeling of being a part of a group. In particular, these needs include “love, friendship, intimacy, and family” (“Maslow’s Theory of Needs,” 2020). Fourthly, esteem needs are placed as a second to the top element of the hierarchy. This category includes the motivational factors that ensure human self-knowledge and reassurance of one’s capabilities and value. They might be met through professional life, interpersonal communication, social life, and reflection on an individual’s performance in a variety of settings. These needs include “confidence, self-esteem, achievement, respect,” and other factors (“Maslow’s Theory of Needs,” 2020). Finally, the fifth element of the hierarchy and the pivotal category of needs is the self-actualization needs. This category includes such issues as ethics, morality, decision-making, creativity, problem-solving, and others.

In essence, Maslow’s Theory of Needs assumes that people are motivated to perform activities in their daily lives based on the five categories of needs while moving across the hierarchy to higher levels of categories. In such a manner, “desires underlie behavior,” with regards to the fact that higher-level desires will be pursued only when lower-level needs are met (Tanabe & Kimura, 2020, p. 2). Moreover, the person is not only incapable of meeting higher-level needs without lower-level ones met but cannot feel the desire to meet them. Therefore, to pursue such goals in life as esteem and self-actualization, one must have comfort meeting one’s physiological requirements, be in a safe environment, and develop a sense of belongingness.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory is a fundamental framework for every nurse’s effective functioning within a healthcare institution when delivering care to patients. Since health and wellness are the basic needs of human beings, it is nurses’ responsibility to help patients meet these needs in a well-defined order as suggested by the hierarchy. The knowledge of the five categories of needs allows nurses to make informed decisions when planning care, treatment, or recovery. In particular, this theory is primarily “applied in nursing to guide the prioritization of patient care needs” given the analysis of one’s characteristics (“Maslow’s Theory of Needs,” 2020, para. 1). It is also used as the basis for tools used in nursing for analyzing patient requirements for interventions, their strengths, and limitations in a particular case.

The study was conducted in 2020 in order to investigate the motivational factors for physical activity in the elderly patients of the Japanese elderly care facilities. The study included only the participants who were inpatients of the institutions and had cerebrovascular disease. The study was aimed at identifying what could be the reasons for older people with impaired mobility to stand up and perform physical activity regardless of their state (Tanabe & Kimura, 2020). Maslow’s Theory of Needs was used as a framework to categorize the motivational factors according to the hierarchy of needs. However, given the implied goals of the study, the needs were generally categorized into physiological and non-physiological ones.

The “research design was a cross-sectional, observational study” that used a method of the narrative camera (Tanabe & Kimura, 2020, p. 3). The participants were observed through wearable cameras within 24 hours of life at the institution. Their physical activity events were documented with the collection of the data indicating the reasons for the action. The findings were categorized into motivational factors depending on the hierarchy of needs. In addition to the interpretation of the visual data retrieved with the help of cameras, verbal means were analyzed as per the indicators of motivation. The study results indicated that 15.4% of all the indicators signalized non-physiological needs as motivation for physical activity (Tanabe & Kimura, 2020). The implications of the study include the applicability of the findings for improved elderly care and upgrading rehabilitation services. Also, the study provides a basis for further research into the fulfillment of higher-level needs of institutionalized patients for a better quality of life and well-being.

The application of Maslow’s Needs theory allowed the researchers to structure their study according to the categories of needs. Given the variety of issues that might trigger one’s physical activity, the framework is essential to avoid bias and ensure an evidential basis. The use of physiological and non-physiological categories helped them to detect verbal and visual indicators of either of the two types of motivational patterns investigated by the study. The results of the research were aligned with the framework of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs with the emphasis on further utilization of the hierarchy for elderly care improvement.

In summation, theoretical frameworks are essential for evidence-based nursing care. In both research and practice, nurses utilize various interdisciplinary theories to guide their studies and align decision-making with patient needs. Maslow’s Needs theory is a fundamental framework that categorizes human needs into five motivational factor types. It asserts that without meeting lower-level needs in the hierarchy, a person is incapable of meeting higher-level ones, such as belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization. As the analysis of the study showed, the theory allows for structuring the research process, provides concepts, and enhances the prospects for care improvement in accordance with the principles introduced by Maslow.


Maslow’s Theory of Needs. (2020). Current Nursing. Web.

Tanabe, M., & Kimura, A. (2020). A Categorizing the Motivations of Elderly with Disabilities in need of Nursing Care Unit for Physical Activity Using the Narrative Camera Method. Japanese Journal of Public Health Physical Therapy, 7(3), 1-7.

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EssaysInCollege. (2022, July 4). Theories in Nursing: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory. Retrieved from


EssaysInCollege. (2022, July 4). Theories in Nursing: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory.

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"Theories in Nursing: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory." EssaysInCollege, 4 July 2022,


EssaysInCollege. (2022) 'Theories in Nursing: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory'. 4 July.


EssaysInCollege. 2022. "Theories in Nursing: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory." July 4, 2022.

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EssaysInCollege. "Theories in Nursing: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory." July 4, 2022.