History and background hildegard peplau

Theoretical work

During the summers she conducted workshops in mental hospitals from coast to coast and abroad, training nurses in interviewing techniques while analyzing and explaining psychiatric theory. As a lecturer at conventions, institutes and meetings, she spoke on trends in nursing, psychiatric nursing practice, and interpersonal relations.

She constantly advocated professionalization and graduate training for nurses, and the need for nurses to exercise therapeutic skills and provide more than just custodial care. As a faculty member of Rutgers, Peplau conducted research under a National Institute of Mental Health training grant in support of the first graduate program in psychiatric nursing for the preparation of clinical specialists.

This research resulted in new and sophisticated theories based on psychiatric nursing practices. In particular, she used clinical interview data to clarify the interpersonal nature of nursing practice, to abstract and formulate theoretical concepts, and to test these concepts in practice. In addition to supervising research at Rutgers, she served on many advisory committees to research projects.

Her books are classics in the field of psychiatric nursing: Interpersonal Relations in Nursing , Aspects of Psychiatric Nursing , and Basic Principles of Patient Counseling Additionally, she wrote many articles for professional journals and essays for nursing textbooks and handbooks. She was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare form of abdominal cancer, and died following a stroke in From the guide to the Additional papers of Hildegard E. Peplau, inclusive , bulk , , , Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute.

The future in the past: Hildegard Peplau and interpersonal relations in nursing

Hildegard Elizabeth Peplau , educator and psychiatric nurse, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Polish and Russian immigrants Gustav and Ottylie Peplau. Educated at local schools, she received a diploma in nursing from Pottstown Hospital Training School in Pennsylvania, in ; an A. Peplau served in the U. Army Nurse Corps , and was a faculty member at the College of Nursing at Rutgers University , becoming chair of the Department of Psychiatric Nursing and director of the graduate program in , and Professor in Nursing in An advocate of professionalization and graduate training for nurses, Peplau was active in the leadership of many nursing and health associations.

For a more detailed biography and related papers, see the finding aids for the Papers of Hildegard E. Peplau, M and MC From the guide to the Audiotape collection of Hildegard E. Peplau, , Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute. Additionally, she has written many articles for professional journals and essays for nursing textbooks and handbooks. From the guide to the Videotape collection of Hildegard E. SNAC is a discovery service for persons, families, and organizations found within archival collections at cultural heritage institutions. The Andrew W. Toggle navigation snac.

Peplau, Hildegard E. Alternative names. Hide Profile. Peplau, inclusive , bulk , , , Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Hildegard Elizabeth Peplau , educator and psychiatric nurse, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Polish and Russian immigrants Gustav and Ottylie Peplau.

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Hildegard Peplau - Nursing Theorist

Air Force corporateBody associatedWith U. Subject Belgium--Nursing. Exist Dates: Birth Death Nationality: International. Languages Used: English. Related Descriptions. Search Elsewhere. Hildegard E. Social Networks and Archival Context. Sponsors The Andrew W. Before there were drugs, psychiatric nurses articulated a way of caring for patients that was intensely therapeutic and patient-centred, based on the belief that the role of the nurse was to facilitate a journey to a patient-defined recovery.

This history, and its attendant struggles, continues to affect the profession in a myriad of ways. Embedding this history in the curriculum is an essential component of enabling empathic, critical and reflective practitioners.


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For many nurses, mental health work is one of the most challenging areas of their practice. It is little wonder that mental health is one of the least popular specialisations in nursing, with some Schools of Nursing focusing so much on acute care in the biomedical model that they fail to offer mental health or psychiatric nursing as a distinct specialisation at all. I am often asked why history matters in the context of contemporary approaches to health.

More than any of the other health professions, nursing practice — the very work that nurses do — has been forged at the intersection of strong social forces over which nurses themselves sometimes had little control. The nature of the work itself has always been difficult, with many past psychiatric practices built on physical restraint and violent intervention.

Even while she continued to teach nurses to be therapists, she taught them to question both themselves and the systems within which they operated. There is much to learn from a nurse like Peplau, but they are lessons contemporary nursing sometimes forgets. To all extents and purposes however, her vision for the full therapeutic role of the nurse appears to have been largely subsumed into the biomedical approaches emerging so forcefully in the late 60s and 70s, the language of which has become almost unquestionable. Her way of thinking is so much a part of modern psychiatric nursing as to be almost invisible.

Yet she was very much a product of her time. We cannot understand modern approaches to practice without understanding the politics and society within which that practice emerged, the context within which decisions about human health were made. This understanding, this historical perspective, alerts us to the contingency of all health, medical and scientific decisions.

Rather, agendas are weighed, ideas prioritised, funding allocated, drugs designed or not designed, treatment options explored and discarded, all vulnerable to shifting ideologies and the lobbying of powerful interest groups. They are made by and for humans, and so the humanities are powerful tools by which to critically analyse and question the assumptions and narratives that underpin modern health care practices. Even as nursing tried to develop its own approaches to theory and practice, it was drawn inevitably into the dominant paradigm of modern medicine in the late twentieth century.

Partially in recognition of these problems, programs like the Mellon Foundation funding grant are explicitly intended to bring new perspectives to the health sciences through the humanities in an attempt to broaden the knowledge base of health professional education.

Hildegard Peplau

These initiatives seek to expand the critical and creative thinking of a new generation of health leaders, and to draw new insights from history, art, film, music and literature about both the experience and significance of human health and illness. More accurately, these are both essential human conditions, which exist along a continuum, and people will move between them in the life-death cycle.

The humanities are essential to understanding this critique of biomedicine: they give us the tools, the theory and the language with which to articulate that critique as well as to develop alternative approaches. Ethical and reflective health practice relies on the ability to leave personal judgements at the door, and recognise the real burden that people with long term illness must face as they seek to rebuild or refashion their lives.


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There is no easy fix, no single solution, only a deeper understanding of the grey areas. This grey area of uncertainty is where the humanities become so important in building ethical health practitioners. As Rita Charon so compellingly argues, ethical practice begins by listening and honouring the stories of illness with which we are presented.

These are stories the point of which is in the telling, and the being heard. These are stories about ourselves as well. The hearing of our own narratives provides a means to put the self aside, letting go of the need to fix or heal or cure or be done with.

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History is also a story. It is a jigsaw puzzle, the piecing together of disparate elements to paint an interpretation. This is the strength of qualitative research in nursing as well, the history taking that nurses do when they meet a patient for the first time, the history they build as they walk with that person on their journey, wherever it may lead. This is life, as it is lived, in all its messy glory. This is what the humanities are for, to understand the human experience.