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Peplau’s Theory

Hildegard Peplau (1909-1999) was an American nurse and the first published nurse theorist since Florence Nightingale. Peplau’s theory is a middle-range theory of nursing that revolutionized the field. Dr. Peplau was also instrumental in shaping the mental health system in the United States following her work as an Army Nurse during World War II.

Peplau’s Theory

Peplau’s theory emphasizes the nurse-client relationship as the foundation of practice. It formed the framework of her 1952 book, Interpersonal Relations in Nursing. In the book, Peplau described six nursing roles that contribute to different phases of the nurse-client relationship.

First is the stranger role. When nurse and patient first meet, they are unknown to each other. Nurses must treat patients with respect and courtesy, and not prejudge. Second is the resource role. This is when the nurse provides answers to questions about health information. The nurse must determine what the appropriate response is, given the situation. Third is the teaching role, a combination of all roles. This role consists of both instructional and experimental phases.

The fourth role is that of counseling, which is the biggest element in psychiatric nursing. As counselor, the nurse provides guidance and encouragement. Fifth is the surrogate role. The patient puts the nurse into this role based on previous positive relationships. Sixth is the leadership role, where the nurse helps the patient achieve maximum responsibility for meeting health goals.

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