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The Concept of Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations

Fostering dynamic relationships between nurses and patients’ families is a matter of communication improvement as well as approaching nursing as a profession that goes far beyond treatment, prevention, and diagnosis. The specific issue that should be addressed pertains to the lack of awareness of the communicational needs of patients. The problem is critical to address because of the need to inform decision-makers about the limitations associated with the lack of communication.

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This is explained by the fact that positive relationships between nurses and patients; family is a prerequisite on the successful results of care. Therefore, the problem requires further attention on the part of the healthcare professionals as it has not been evaluated rigorously yet in regards to the interactive, dynamic, psychic, and intellectual components.

Problem Description

The role of the family in facilitating the improvement of a patient’s health has a significant influence on recovery. Nurses are responsible for accompanying the family through the treatment process or life maintenance (Shivnan & Kennedy, 2019). Nurses assume the role of communicators and facilitators who would transfer information to families and ensure that they can maintain positive attitudes toward the treatment of their relatives.

As mentioned by Loghmani, Borhani, and Abbaszadeh (2014), the lack of consideration among medical personnel for the standard patterns of behavior within nurse-family relationships decreases professionals’ capacity to handle complex patient situations. While families, patients, and families are the key stakeholders involved, it is also imperative to consider the role of clinical policymakers.

Nursing Theory

Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations is expected to offer a framework to support communication between nurses and patients’ families. Hildegard E. Peplau has a Bachelor’s in Interpersonal Psychology from Bennington College and a Master’s in Psychiatric Nursing from Colombia University in New York (Black, 2019). His work, Interpersonal Relations in Nursing, was first published in 1952, laying out the basic principles of the theory that explains the purpose of nursing through the lens of relationships with patients (Black, 2019). In the theory, nursing is defined as an interpersonal and therapeutic process occurring when nurses engage “in a therapeutic relationship with people who are in need of health services” (as cited in Hagerty, Samuels, Norcini-Pala, & Gigliotti, 2018).

According to the theorist, successful nurse-patient relationships should pass three stages, which include orientation, working, and termination. At the orientation phase, hospitalized patients realize that they require medical attention and will try to adjust their experiences. At the working phase, nurses assess patients’ conditions and develop an interdisciplinary care plan. At the final stage, termination, a process for discharge is initiated, with the success of treatment depending on the extent to which nurses and their patients interacted during orientation and working phases.

Application of Theory

Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations was chosen to address the issue of improving dynamic relationships between nurses and patients due to its focus on interactions between the members of the healthcare process. The theory intends to explain the purpose of nursing as the practice of helping people identify their felt difficulties and subsequently manage them. Within the framework, nurses are expected to use the principles of human relations to the problems arising at multiple levels of experience.

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According to Peplau, nursing is a therapeutic process that is equated to a healing art of assisting persons who are sick and require healthcare attention (Hagerty et al., 2018). Furthermore, categorizing nursing as an interpersonal process is associated with the involvement of frequent interactions between numerous individuals who have a mutual goal of recovery on their minds.

The strategy that is useful for resolving the identified problem lies in the core of Peplau’s theory and represents the three-dimensional framework of the care process. At every stage of the process, nurses are encouraged to interact with every party involved in health improvement, and patients’ families are directly involved. For example, when a patient is initially admitted to a healthcare facility, nurses are the first to greet them and approach them with respect and positive interest.

The same attitude should also be applied to families that are usually stressed by their loved ones being ill. Nurses will always display courtesy and respect at the orientation stage, thus starting to develop a trusting relationship with the patient and his or her family.

At the working stage of Peplau’s framework, there is the highest number of interactions occurring between nurses and the participants of the care process. Assessments about patients’ well-being are made in order to use their results during teaching and contributing to the interdisciplinary care plan (Hagerty et al., 2018). It is imperative for nurses to become familiar with their patients and engage the family in a conversation about health and well-being. In order to increase the awareness of families regarding the changing health of their relatives.

Through the therapeutic form of communication, both reflective and non-judgmental feedback is given to patients and their families to clarify thoughts and offer a clear look at the intended care process. At the final stage, nurses will analyze their interactions with families and patients to educate them on effective symptom management post-discharge. The higher is the quality of relationships developed during the previous stages of the strategy, the greater is the likelihood of the post-discharge efforts being successful.

Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations should receive more attention from researchers when it comes to developing strategies to foster dynamic relationships between nurses and their patients’ families. The theory is concerned with increasing the satisfaction of patients through encouraging healthcare specialists to be effective communicators, educators, and support personnel. The advice given by the theorist is concerned with enhancing the experiences of patients with the help of a reciprocal relationship.

The roles that nurses play are varied, pointing to the fact that nursing is more than a process of caring for a person. Nursing means being a teacher, a resource person, a counselor, and a leader. All of these roles combined should be studied further to determine the specific evidence-based interventions to help nurses develop dynamic relationships with patients’ families.

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Patients’ families have shown to have a positive influence on recovery when they are effectively involved in the care process. Because nurses act as critical links between families and attending physicians, the building of dynamic relationships is imperative. In the current project, Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations was applied to reveal its usefulness in helping nurses becoming closer to patients and their families. The theory defines nursing as an interpersonal process that is based on the collaboration between patients and their care providers. Both nursing and interpersonal theory focus on therapeutic relationships and both implement problem-solving techniques that require collaboration. Furthermore, both nursing and Peplau’s theory use observation communication as a means to facilitate recovery.


Black, B. (2019). Professional nursing: Concepts and challenges (8th ed.). St. Louis, M: Elsevier Saunders.

Hagerty, T. A., Samuels, W., Norcini-Pala, A., & Gigliotti, E. (2017). Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations: An alternate factor structure for patient experience data?. Nursing Science Quarterly, 30(2), 160-167.

Loghmani, L., Borhani, F., & Abbaszadeh, A. (2014). Factors affecting the nurse-patients’ family communication in intensive care unit of Kerman: A qualitative study. Journal of Caring Sciences, 3(1), 67-82.

Shivnan, J. C., & Kennedy, M. M. (2019). The nurse in the modern hospital. In R. Latifi (Eds.), The modern hospital (pp. 341-356). Berlin, Germany: Springer, Cham.

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