The theory selected for this explication is Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations. Developed by Hildegard Peplau who was “a staff nurse, researcher, and educator” (Senn, 2013, p. 31), the theory of interpersonal relations arose from her concerns about conditions in patient wards, “particularly psychiatric patients in asylums during the 1940s and 1950s” (Senn, 2013, p. 32). Peplau theorized that nurses could use nursing situations “as a source of observations from which concepts could be derived that were unique to nursing” (Senn, 2013, p. 31).
That is to say, nurses could use their daily experiences to identify and define concepts that would provide insight to nursing theory and practice. This theory highlights the fact that nursing is a unique field, existing in a unique environment, and the best way to develop relevant, meaningful, and useful nursing concepts is to do so from within the practice itself. This, in turn, suggests that Peplau believed that practice clarified theory, rather than theory being clarified by practice. Furthermore, Peplau’s theory reflects the person-based dynamics that take place in nursing environments.
The idea that practice can clarify theory is striking. I usually let theory guide my practice. Understanding the underlining concepts and foundations of practice helps us understand the why of our practice. However, using practice to help clarify theory makes a lot of sense; one begins to truly appreciate having the frameworks offered by theory to help guide decision-making and approaches to practice. Because every patient is unique and different, using interpersonal relations to help figure out common denominators between situations can help a nurse more easily and quickly establish a relationship with a patient, or even with other practitioners.
In my own daily practice, I am going to start more consciously examining my interactions with patients and colleagues to better understand how they help me be a better a practitioner myself and clarify my understanding of theories which, in turn, can help clarify and improve my practice.