Hildegard Peplau: biography, theory

Hildegard Peplau was considered as"the nurse of the century"and as"mother of psychiatric nursing"due to the remarkable theoretical contributions left in medicine.

Since 1952, his theories have served as a contribution to the development of modern nursing and, furthermore, as a study base for professionals and potential research in the psychotherapeutic and mental health field.

Hildegard Peplau: biography, theory

Born in 1909, in Reading, Pennsylvania, Peplau obtained an educational training based on psychology, nursing and psychiatry at institutes such as the Hospital School of Nursing, Bennington College and Teachers College, Columbia University.

Later, her professional development led her to be a supervisor at the Pottstown Hospital; Chief of Nursing in Bennington and worked in the Army Nurses Corps.

She also became the executive director of the American Nurses Association, where one year later she assumed the presidency, and carried out activities in various psychiatric nursing centers while also carrying out theoretical investigations and teaching.

"The nurse of the century"passed away on March 17, 1990 in Sherman Oaks, California. It was added to the Hall of Fame of the American Academy of Nursing in 1994.

Later, in 1995, she was included in the list of 50 great American personalities and in 1997 she was awarded at the ICN Quadrennial Congress with the Christiane Reimann prize, considered the highest honor in nursing.


  • 1 Theory of interpersonal relationships
    • 1.1 Four phases of interpersonal relationships
  • 2 The functions of nursing
    • 2.1 The stranger
    • 2.2 Resource person
    • 2.3 The teacher
    • 2.4 Driver
    • 2.5 The substitute
    • 2.6 The counselor
  • 3 "The nurse of the century"
  • 4 References

Theory of interpersonal relationships

Innovation in the field of modern nursing and the application of theoretical concepts of other authors such as Sigmund Freud, Abraham Maslow, Harry Sullivan and Neal Miller, managed to develop Peplau's own theory of psychodynamic nursing based on interpersonal relationships between patients and the professionals of nursing.

The progress of this theory was based on the study of other important works on human behavior and the functioning of the psyche. In addition, he stitched them together with his personal and professional experiences within his field of work.

In his work" Interpersonal Relations in Nursing "(Interpersonal Relations in Nursing), explains how the interaction between patients and nurses must be merged through cooperation to find the balance that will provide health, wellbeing and the improvement of the physical and psychic state.

Four phases of interpersonal relationships

According to Peplau, the correlation between patient and nurse is given in four phases that have as objective the personal development of both in different environments.

The first phase is called"orientation", at which time the patient presents a state of discomfort and needs support from a nurse, who will help him understand what is happening.

The second phase is"identification". At this point the patient recognizes the need for help and collaborates with those who will provide support; while the nurse makes the diagnosis and establishes a plan of action.

The third phase is"exploitation"or exploitation. It refers to when the nursing professional's care plan is applied effectively and the patient makes use of the services, collaborates and benefits from them.

Finally, the"resolution"phase arrives, stage in which the objectives begin to be achieved positively and progressively and, in addition, the relationship between patient and nurse becomes independent.

The development of the phases explained by Peplau was adopted in a generalized manner by the nursing community, since it offers a feasible method and constitutes a model based on theory and practice that promotes a dependency relationship necessary to find solutions to an unmet need.

The functions of nursing

Peplau, in addition to his well-known theory, also described 6 functions of nursing that occur in the practice of interaction with the patient.

The stranger

Initially, the patient observes the nurse as a stranger and the relationship must be treated with respect, seeking knowledge of details that will subsequently help the cooperation of both.

Resource person

The nurse offers answers to the patient's problem and provides explanations about the care plan to follow to provide solutions.

The teacher

In this function two types of learning are mixed: instructive, which is based on knowledge through information by different means; and experimental learning, based on the practical activities that are carried out as part of the care plan offered by the nurse.


It is one of the functions in which the theory of cooperation and interpersonal relationship between the patient and the nurse is applied, since both must participate actively towards the objectives set at the beginning of the relationship.

The substitute

For the patient, the nurse becomes a substitute for someone whom he remembers with similarity. At this point the nurse must help create differences and there is a relationship of dependence and independence between them.

The counselor

For Peplau, it is the most important function of the relationship, since it is when the nurse assists in giving answers and observations of the reality, of the current situation to the patient, with the aim of helping him to understand what is happening and to overcome the needs .

" The nurse of the century"

Although Hildegard Peplau's theory was pioneering for the moment, some of its theoretical contributions were not well perceived in the first years of its publication.

The idea of ​​experiential learning between patients and nurses was questioned; and other researchers dissented with respect to the method of the 6 functions of nursing, especially with the role of"substitute".

However, the application of his theory expanded in the professional field of nursing because it promotes a conglomeration of behavioral, social and psychotherapeutic theories that together seek to solve an unmet need, through cooperation, motivation and Personal development.

Therefore, the Peplau model is currently part of nursing studies in various institutes around the world and continues to be a benchmark for research and psychotherapeutic work.


  1. Bibliography and contributions of Hildegard Peplau to Psychiatric Nursing. (February 25, 2017). Obtained from revista-portalesmedicos.com.
  2. HILDEGARD E. PEPLAU. (April 24, 2018). Obtained from ambitoenfermeria.galeon.com.
  3. Hildegard Peplau Theory. (April 24, 2016). Retrieved from nursing-theory.org.
  4. Model of Hildegarde Peplau. (September 25, 2009). Obtained from Hildegarde Peplau's Model: enfermeriatravesdeltiempo.blogspot.com.ar.

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