American nurse theorist Hildegard Peplau coined the term psychodynamic nursing, describing how the nurse-patient relationship changes over time.
Hildegard E. Peplau is universally regarded as the mother of psychiatric nursing. Her theoretical and clinical work led to the development of the distinct specialty field of psychiatric nursing. Many believe Peplau’s work produced the greatest changes in nursing practice since Florence Nightingale.
Hilda completed her seminal book, Interpersonal Relations in Nursing, in 1948. Its publication was delayed for four years because at that time it was considered too revolutionary for a nurse to publish a book without a physician co-author.
As a child, Hilda witnessed the devastating flu epidemic of 1918. This personal experience greatly influenced her understanding of the impact of illness and death on families. Her parents, German immigrants, settled in Pennsylvania, where her father worked as a fireman on the railroad. Her choices for education and work were very limited. She chose a hospital school of nursing in Pottstown, Pa. and later earned degrees from Bennington College and Teacher’s College, Columbia University. She served as a US army nurse in England during World War II.
Hilda was a member of the Rutgers University College of Nursing (Newark, NJ) faculty from 1954-1974, where she created the first master’s programme for the preparation of clinical specialists in psychiatric nursing. She served on many high-level federal government committees for mental health and was elected president of the American Nurses Association, and afterwards was a vital member of the International Council of Nurses.
Hilda was also known for her presentations, speeches, and clinical training workshops. Upon her retirement, she created master’s degree programmes in psychiatric nursing in Belgium, and continued to provide consultation internationally.
Interpersonal Relations in Nursing was republished in the UK in the 1980s, becoming a bestseller when Hilda was in her 90s. She passed away in 1999.