Using Peplau’s Theory in Practice

Table of Contents


Nurses play a vital role in the healthcare industry. They are essential in treating patients, comforting them, and ensuring their satisfaction with the delivered services. It comes as no surprise that nursing requirements extend beyond medical expertise. Qualitative patient care also demands effective communicative skills. This necessity is a cornerstone of Hildegard Peplau’s nursing theory. Understanding the major tenets of Peplau’s theory is critical to ascertaining the correct ways of implementing it into nursing practice.

Understanding the Theory

The theory itself is based on the understanding of a nurse’s work as a deeply psychological endeavor. Peplau defined nursing as an “interpersonal, therapeutic process that takes place when professionals engage in therapeutic relationships with people who are in need of health services” (Hagerty et al., 2017, p. 162). By looking at this definition, it becomes evident that a sympathetic attitude stands at the core of healthcare.

The entirety of nurses’ interaction with patients is dissected into three stages, all of which are characterized by different nurse roles. Orientation is the first phase, which takes place when a patient is admitted. A nurse assumes the “stranger” role, which entails adjusting newly hospitalized clients to the clinical setting (Hagerty et al., 2017). At this stage, they are confused and require nurses’ help in sorting the new experiences. This phase is not long, but it sets the tone for all future communication with patients.

The second is the working face, which spans the majority of the time a patient is in a hospital. Nurses have simultaneously up to four roles – counselors, care providers, health educators, and resource persons. The main goal of this phase is to “provide reflective and nonjudgmental feedback to patients for the sake of helping them clarify their thoughts” (Hagerty et al., 2017, p. 163). This phase is important because customers express feelings about their health, thus forming an opinion about the quality of hospital care.

Preparations for a discharge are covered by the termination phase, which shares roles with the previous stage. As the name suggests, healthcare receivers are getting ready to leave the hospital. Not only should they be in good physical health to be discharged, but they should also have the knowledge necessary to deal with a similar illness on their own. Gagerty et al. (2017) write that “a major part of the termination phase occurs when nurses teach patients about symptom management and recovery at home” (p. 163). At this point, customers also form their final impression of the delivered care.

Putting Theory into Practice

Peplau’s theory has the capacity to improve three significant areas of nursing practice. Firstly, customers receive a higher quality of patient care compared to other approaches (Hariyati & Ungsianik, 2018). When patients see nurses actively engage in conversations with them, a certain degree of trust is formed between them. The former are less likely to withhold valuable information about their conditions, while the latter encounter more compliance with abiding by doctors’ and nurses’ requirements. As a result, the atmosphere of mutual respect increases the chances of successful treatment.

Secondly, nurses become more experienced and communicatively competent. Interacting with customers by following a specific role develops patience, flexibility, and leadership abilities. According to Hariyati and Ungsianik (2018), “Training in strengthening the interpersonal roles of head nurses significantly increased the head nurses’ knowledge and skills” (p. 149). This outcome stems from the fact that, while educating patients, nurses sharpen their leadership skills.

Thirdly, patient satisfaction has a positive effect on a hospital’s reputation. One of the common complaints concerning healthcare organizations revolves around neglecting the diversity of customers. In contrast, Peplau’s approach is highly individualistic, with each patient being fully involved in the conversation. Roles allow for a multitude of behaviors, which nurses can choose to adapt for working with a particular customer. Subsequently, patients receive the attention they desire while being hospitalized and show their appreciation by spreading the good word about a hospital.

Improving nurse-customer interaction can be done via education or motivating working conditions. It is possible to include Peplau’s roles as a necessary constituent of nurse training. If students of nursing schools familiarize themselves with the basics of nurse-customer interaction, then they will come to healthcare facilities prepared. Another way of promoting Peplau’s vision is by creating a stimulus for nurses to appropriately work with patients. For instance, the administration can institute wage bonuses for being positively characterized by customers as one of the roles. It will drive the person to adopt the proper stance in communicating with a patient.


Altogether, Peplau’s theory of interpersonal relationships has the capability to significantly improve patient care. Structuring the customer’s time in a hospital into phases with respective roles allows nurses to accurately assess a patient’s condition and choose the manner of interaction with them. Utilizing Peplau’s theory in nursing practice leads to better healthcare, greater nurses’ experience, and deeper customer satisfaction. In order to achieve such results, it is possible to either make it part of nurse education or provide nurses with financial benefits for implementing Peplau’s roles.


Hagerty, T. A., Samuels, W., Norcini-Pala, A., & Gigliotti, E. (2017). . Nursing science quarterly, 30(2), 160-167. Web.

Hariyati, R. T. S., & Ungsianik, T. (2018). Improving the interpersonal competencies of head nurses through Peplau’s theoretical active learning approach. Enfermería Clínica, 28, 149-153.

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