Joyce Travelbee’s Human-to-Human Relationship Model


The conceptual model under consideration is Joyce Travelbee’s human-to-human relationship model. The primary assumption on which the theory is based is that every patient is a unique human being who deserves to be provided with hope, motivation, and meaning while experiencing the illness. The central concept of the model under discussion is nursing intervention. She also transformed the meaning of the patient concept, as she stated that it should not be a mere label. This concept is supported by ideas of trust, hope, and rapport because Travelbee considered the establishment of trusting relationships to be the crucial aspect of caregiving.

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According to Travelbee, “caring … involves the dynamic, reciprocal, interpersonal connection between the nurse and patient” (Staal, 2015, p. 76). Therefore, it is possible to observe that relationships between concepts within the theory are based on personal involvement from both nursing professionals and people experiencing illness. Regarding the effect of different concepts on each other, it should be mentioned that the concept of nursing intervention is the most important and influencing aspect of the model. Other concepts and sub-concepts are included in the theory as they all work towards one goal within the frame of the model.

Origins of the Theory

It should be stated that in the period in which Travelbee’s theory was being developed, nursing science was experiencing a lack of formal conceptualization and theorization. Also, it is possible to mention that relationships between nurses and patients were perceived as purely formal and did not involve a personal approach. Therefore, as the basis for the development of her theory, Travelbee decided to merge her experience as a nursing professional and her religious background. Religious values were the factor that had the most important impact on the development of the scientist’s patient-centered theory.

Arguably, the primary motivational factor that impacted Travelbee’s decision to develop a theory was the intention to change to the current state of the healthcare system. Also, she considered that it is appropriate to retrieve valuable knowledge not only from textbooks but also from interpersonal communication with patients. In the process of developing her theory, Travelbee incorporated the provisions of Peplau’s theory. However, due to the lack of coherent methodological guidelines of nursing theorizations, she dwelt primarily on her professional and personal experience.


It could be stated with certainty that Travelbee’s human-to-human relationship model is highly useful in practice. Since this framework is based on the combination of theorization and practical nursing experience, it is highly applicable to the majority of caregiving facilities and situations. Travelbee successfully merged personal values and academic approaches to the development of her method, and thus her theory is used by nursing practitioners. The model comprises five distinct stages: observation, interpretation, decision-making, action, and appraisal; and thus, it is possible to understand and predict patient outcomes because a nurse carefully follows the patient’s path to health. Staal (2015) describes the 1989 case, in which a group of nurses implemented Travelbee’s model in their practice for six months. As a result, they increased their performance and job satisfaction (Staal, 2015). Also, the participants reported that they improved their relationships with patients and the overall environment in the workplace (Staal, 2015).


It is worth mentioning that the theory under discussion has been developing for a considerably long period of time, and its testability was proved numerous times. First of all, the model was tested in practice by Travelbee, and it was supported by academic research on the topic by herself and her contemporaries. Further, as the theory has established, it generated continuous research in the field of nursing practice. Staal (2015) mentions qualitative and quantitative studies that were conducted by various scholars. Butts and Rich (2015) argue that numerous scientists contributed to the establishment of the theory’s testability. However, Mohammed et al. (2016) state that the most important aspect of Travelbee’s model is that it became the basis for the development of a patient-centered care framework, which is widely used in contemporary nursing. The theory’s propositions, or statements of critical, logical points of the theory, were testable enough to generate massive research and change the overall direction of the nursing science.

Overall Evaluation

Overall, it is possible to conclude that the conceptual model under discussion is comprehensive and elaborated. However, it is possible to state that Travelbee’s theory is not considered specific since it possesses significant universality. It could be used in various clinical environments due to its universal approach, but it does not have distinct and specific methods for a particular nursing situation. This aspect could be considered the theory’s primary weakness. Nevertheless, the model provides a nursing professional with the ability to connect with his or her patient meaningfully. Another strength that should be mentioned is that the theory provides distinct guidelines for the process of caregiving. I would use this theory in my advanced nursing practice at least to some extent because it is highly applicable to the majority of clinical environments and nursing situations.

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Butts, J. B., & Rich, K. L. (Eds.). (2015). Philosophies and theories for advanced nursing practice (2nd ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC.

Mohammed, K., Nolan, M. B., Rajjo, T., Shah, N. D., Prokop, L. J., Varkey, P., & Murad, M. H. (2016). Creating a patient-centered health care delivery system: A systematic review of health care quality from the patient perspective. American Journal of Medical Quality, 31(1), 12-21.

Staal, J. (2015). Joyce Travelbee’s human-to-human relationship model and its applications. In M. C. Smith & M. E. Parker (editors), Nursing theories and nursing practice (4th ed.) (pp. 76-81). F. A. Davis Company.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Joyce Travelbee's Human-to-Human Relationship Model." July 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Joyce Travelbee's Human-to-Human Relationship Model'. 20 July.

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