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Nursing Theoretical Frameworks: Joyce Travelbee’s Human-To-Human Relationship Model

In contemporary nursing science, there are numerous theoretical frameworks of various types, each describing a unique approach to caregiving. However, it is essential to notice that the development of nursing theory took a relatively long way, and it comprised many scientists’ contribution (Butts & Rich, 2015). Each scientist contributed to the advancement of the nursing science by formulating his or her conceptualizations of caregiving core concepts, including health, patient, care, and environment (Chism, 2017). The primary purpose of this paper is to discuss Joyce Travelbee’s human-to-human relationship model and its importance. This study is structured by four subdivisions, which represent the stages of research: theorizing, syntax, theory testing, and evaluation.

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Brief Biography and the Importance of Contribution

First of all, it is important to describe the path which Joyce Travelbee has taken to create and develop her theory. During her nursing practice and education, she developed premises for the implementation of her theoretical framework. Her clinical experience was combined with her religious background, which influenced her unique perception of the relations between nurse and patient (Staal, 2015). When she became a professor of nursing, she incorporated her philosophy, which was influenced by Peplau’s theory, into the teaching methods, encouraging students to learn not only from the textbooks but also from the interaction with patients (Staal, 2015; Hagerty, 2015). Thus she created her human-to-human relationship model, a middle-range theory which later provided a basis for the patient-centered care framework (Mohammed et al., 2016).


The ultimate goal, which was set by Travelbee, was helping patients to find hope, motivation, and meaning while experiencing the illness. The central idea was the concept of nursing intervention. The application of human-to-human relationship model comprises five phases: observation, interpretation, decision-making, action (the stage of nursing intervention), and appraisal, which included evaluation of the nurse-patient interrelations. According to Travelbee, “caring … involves the dynamic, reciprocal, interpersonal connection between the nurse and patient”, and thus through the process of communication, both parties understand their value and uniqueness (Staal, 2015, p. 76).


For the second stage of the study, it is essential to elaborate on the terminology, which is the fundamental part of any theoretical framework. First of all, one of the principal characteristics is the notion of the patient. In Travelbee’s model, the term “patient” is not used since the scientist perceived this word as a mere label for a particular category of people (Staal, 2015). On the contrary, Travelbee argued that every ill person is a unique individual who is in need of nurse’s guidance through the experience of illness. It is possible to notice that the scientist transcended the traditional notions of patient and nurse to prevent dehumanization.

Also, it is important to mention other significant concepts of the theory. The ideas of hope and trust were perceived as fundamental for the communication between nurse and patient. After establishing trusting relationships with the caregiver, an ill person was able to retrieve the meaning from his or her illness experience. Another important notion is the rapport, which was described by Travelbee as the process which comprises empathy, compassion, respect, mutual interest, and non-judgemental attitude (Staal, 2015).

Theory Testing

The third section of the paper is devoted to the observation of the theoretical framework’s application to practice. Since the Travelbee’s model was significantly based on the nursing experience of numerous people, it is not surprising that the model is vastly applicable to the process of caregiving. In 1989 a support group for nurses was designed, based on the ideas of Travelbee (Staal, 2015). After the six-month period, participants reported that they increased their job satisfaction and evaluated their work as more meaningful. The application of Travelbee’s model also affected the overall condition of the workplace environment positively.


The final stage of the analysis is the evaluation of theoretical framework’s robustness and efficiency in application to the nursing practice. First of all, it is essential to notice that Travelbee’s theory was one of the first humanist approaches to caregiving since it perceived patient as a unique individual who was in significant need of hope and positive motivation (Staal, 2015). Such method was the first step to the creation of patient-centered health care system, which is established in numerous contemporary institutions (Mohammed et al., 2016). The fact that Travelbee’s theory derived from the clinical practice is one of the principal causes of its successful practical application. The concept of decreasing patient’s dehumanization is an essential philosophical aspect of the model (Staal, 2015).

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Finally, it is important to come to several conclusions, based on the given study. First of all, it is possible to observe that Travelbee’s model is an outstanding theory due to its unique approach to the caregiving. Secondly, this theoretical framework was capable of providing a basis for the contemporary patient-oriented nursing method. Thirdly, the theory was vastly successful in the application to the clinical practice for both nurses and patients. In conclusion, one could suggest that Travelbee’s model had an immense impact on modern nursing science.


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

Chism, L. A. (Ed.). (2017). The doctor of nursing practice: A guidebook for role development and professional issues (4th ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC.

Hagerty, T. A. (2015). Testing Peplau’s theory of interpersonal relations in nursing using data from patient experience surveys. Web.

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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