Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations

Contributor: Jacqueline Fawcett
September 12, 2018
View FITNE Video Interview of Hildegard Peplau
by Jacqueline Fawcett

Author – Hildegard Peplau, RN; EdD; FAAN; LL (Living Legend)

Year First Published – 1952
© 2018 Jacqueline Fawcett
Major Concepts


  • Orientation Phase
  • Working Phase
    • Identification
    • Exploitation
  • Termination Phase


  • Observation
  • Participant Observation
  • Reframing Empathic Linkages
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal Techniques
  • Principle of Clarity
  • Principle of Continuity
  • Recording
  • Data Analysis
  • Phases of the Nurse-Patient Relationship
  • Roles
  • Relations
  • Pattern Integrations

A middle-range descriptive theory

Brief Description

“Peplau’s work is a middle-range descriptive classification theory that focuses on the phases of the interpersonal process that occur when an ill person and a nurse come together to resolve a health-related difficulty.” (Fawcett, J., & DeSanto-Madeya, S. (2013). Contemporary nursing knowledge: Analysis and evaluation of nursing models and theories (3rd ed., p. 382). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis)

Selected Primary Sources

O’Toole, A.W., & Welt, S.R. (Eds.). (1989). Interpersonal theory in nursing practice: Selected works of Hildegard E. Peplau. New York, NY: Springer.

Peplau, H.E. (1952). Interpersonal relations in nursing: A conceptual frame of reference for psychodynamic nursing. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. [Reprinted 1989. London, UK: Macmillan Education Ltd. Reprinted 1991. New York, NY: Springer.] (Translated into nine languages) . Check availability here

Peplau, H.E. (1964). Basic principles of patient counseling. Philadelphia: Smith, Kline and French Laboratories.

Peplau, H.E. (1965). The heart of nursing: Interpersonal relations. Canadian Nurse, 61, 273–275.

Peplau, H.E. (1992). Interpersonal relations: A theoretical framework for application in nursing practice. Nursing Science Quarterly, 5, 13–18.

Peplau, H. E. (1991). Interpersonal relations in nursing: A conceptual frame of reference for psychodynamic nursing. New York, NY: Springer.

Peplau, H.E. (1997). Peplau’s theory of interpersonal relations. Nursing Science Quarterly, 10, 162–167


Hildegard Peplau (1909-1999)


  • Diploma (1931), Pottstown, PA School of NursingBS in interpersonal psychology (1943), Bennington College, VT
  • MS and EdD, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
  • Honorary doctorates from Alfred University, Duke University, Indiana Universtiy, Ohio State University, Rutgers University, and the University of Ulster, Ireland.


  • Staff nurse in Pennsylvania and New York CitySchool nurse, Bennington College, VT
  • Army Nurse Corps (1943-1945)
  • Faculty positions at Teachers College, Columbia University, NY; Rutgers University College of Nursing (1954-1974)
  • Visiting faculty appointments at various universities in Africa, Latin America, Belgium (University of Leuven 1975-1976), and the United States
  • Executive Director, American Nurses Association
  • President, American Nurses Association


  • International Council of Nurses Christiane Reimann Prixe
  • American Academy of Nursing Living Legend
  • American Nurses Association Hall of Fame

(From an obituary written by Dr. Grayce Sills, with assistance from Dr. L. Anne Peplau and Bertha Reppert. Retrieved from

1988 Video Interview of Hildegard Peplau by Jacqueline Fawcett