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Interpersonal Relations Theory in Nursing


As a profession, nursing has long ago extended in meaning from simple caring about patients. Nowadays, it is also about providing advanced help and creating a partnership with a patient. This approach correlates with the Theory of Interpersonal Relations and Essential IX, which is a crucial part of a master’s level nursing practice.

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The Theory of Interpersonal Relations

While looking for the right definition of nursing, Peplau (1991) calls it an “interpersonal process and often a therapeutic one” (p. 5). She claims that although the operations involved are partly technical ones, the interaction between a nurse and a patient makes the process personal. Besides, she stresses that nursing is a function, and nurses have the responsibility for effective patients’ outcomes as well as doctors (Peplau, 1991). It means that nurses should do their best to provide the positive result of the treatment, even when it is not up to them to make a diagnosis.

Also, constant communication with patients gives a priceless experience that can be used for further benefit. For example, a nurse can use previous cases to determine the way to help the patient. A skilled nurse can share knowledge in plain language and explain how to prevent health issues with the patient. Thus, the patient becomes the nurse’s partner, and they solve the problem with common effort. Using this principle of guidance represents professional therapy.

Comparison of Peplau’s Theory with Essential IX

Peplau’s theory has common fundamentals with nine essentials. Their concepts coincide in the following: health policy and advocacy; interprofessional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes; clinical prevention and population health (DeNisco, 2015, p. 22). Peplau (1991) also mentioned the advantages of collaborating with other professionals. The main point is that cooperation in improving patient’s conditions leads to the constructive process of treatment and a healthy community environment which are especially needed for the patient. Besides, these ideas correspond to the Theory of Culture Care Diversity and Universality (Leininger, 2006). It claims that the role of cultural aspects in a medical process is barely considered and that understanding and responding to patient’s needs would significantly improve the performance of health specialists.

However, Peplau’s framework regards nursing as an instrument to provide more creative, personal relations with a patient. Meanwhile, Essential IX is more focused on nursing as a means of influencing healthcare outcomes for not only single patients but also populations and systems. Besides, it pays much more attention to the ability of a nurse to use gained knowledge and skills in practice.


In my personal experience, knowledge of cultural particularities of a patient helped with his further successful treatment. He felt unsure about the prescribed medicine, and obviously, felt insecure in the hospital. Luckily, I understand that a patient is not an object, but a vulnerable human who needs care. My attempt to find the right way to communicate with him was successful. It turned I could use the basic skills learned from psychology and the theories discussed above very soon. All that patient needed was a trustworthy person, who would explain why the medicament was so necessary, and also, some general, simple chat. After all, the patient lost his fears, and the process of treatment became healthy and stable.


To sum up, experts admit that advanced nursing practice could be defined as a multifunctional form of interaction with patients. Nurses have the power to influence patients’ outcomes, even though they are not physicians. This idea is to be widely recognized and used by nurses to make the process of communication with patients more interpersonal and productive.

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DeNisco, S. M. (2015). Advanced practice nursing. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Leininger, M. M., & McFarland M. R. (2006). Culture care diversity: A worldwide nursing theory. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Peplau, H. E. (1991). Interpersonal relations in nursing: A Conceptual frame of reference for psychodynamic nursing. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

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