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Peplau’s Theory in Patient-Nurse Interaction

Since in this research the interaction between a nurse and patients with obesity is the key element, Hildegard Peplau’s theory of Interpersonal Relations in nursing is taken. Originating from psychiatry, this theory was reconstructed for nursing by Peplau in 1952 (Jones, 2014). Her theory suggested that interpersonal relations with patients aimed at improving health are essential for nursing. According to this theory, there are three phases of nursing: orientation phase, working phase and resolution phase (Jones, 2014).

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In the first phase, nurses get acquainted with a patient’s history and establish a trustful relationship. Upon completion of this phase, a patient should be confident in the nurse’s expertise and ability to help. In the working phase, a nurse leads the treatment process and patient is willing to receive the treatment. In the final phase, a patient’s health goals are achieved while the patient becomes independent from the guidance and develops self-care skills.

Peplau identified six different roles to a nurse. They include stranger, resource person, teacher, leader, surrogate, and counselor (Jones, 2014). For this research, the roles of resource person, teacher, and a counselor are of particular importance. A nurse in the role of resource person should have sufficient knowledge about obesity and be ready to provide the necessary amount of information. As a teacher, the nurse is involved in teaching activities and determines presentation style. As a counselor, the nurse promotes activities such as diet for improving health.

This theory is widely applied in different areas. For example, in emergency nursing and rural nursing (Senn, 2013), to decrease anxiety and depression in patients (Zarea, Maghsoudi, Dashtebozorgi, Hghighizadeh, & Javadi, 2014), to facilitate medication self-management in psychiatric patients (Hochberger & Lingham, 2017). Interpersonal relations theory applies to the research because the independent variable is the provision of education by nurses to obese patients and communication is a determining factor in measuring the results.


Jones, J. F. (2014). Interpersonal relations in nursing theory. In J. Fitzpatrick & G. McCarthy (Eds.) Theories guiding nursing research and practice: Making nursing knowledge development explicit (pp. 173-182). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Hochberger, J.M. & Lingham, B. (2017). Utilizing Peplau’s interpersonal approach to facilitate medication self-management for psychiatric patients. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 31(1), 122-124.

Senn, J.F. (2013). Peplau’s theory of Interpersonal Relations: Application in emergency and rural nursing. Nursing Science Quarterly, 26(1), 31–35.

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Zarea, K., Maghsoudi, S., Dashtebozorgi, B., Hghighizadeh, M. H., & Javadi, M. (2014). The Impact of Peplau’s therapeutic communication model on anxiety and depression in patients candidate for coronary artery bypass. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH, 10, 159–165.

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