Hildegard Peplau: Psychiatric Nurse of the Century

Hildegard Peplau: Psychiatric Nurse of the Century

Hildegard Peplau: Psychiatric Nurse of the Century

Hildegard Peplau: Psychiatric Nurse of the Century


"Hildegard Peplau's 50-year career in nursing left an indelible stamp on the profession of nursing, and on the lives of the mentally ill in this country. She wore many hats - founder of modern psychiatric nursing, innovative educator, advocate for the mentally ill, proponent of advanced education for nurses, Executive Director and then President of the American Nurses Association, and prolific author. While pursuing an ambitious professional path, as a single parent she raised her daughter. Her determined manner often aroused controversy which never deterred her committment to advancing the nursing profession." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


This is the story of a controversial woman, whose life made a difference, not only to her profession, but to the lives of the mentally ill in this country.

Hildegard Elizabeth Peplau's descriptions of her childhood and interactions within her very patriarchal family suggest early on that hers would not be an ordinary life. As a young teenager, she made the decision to do what very few women did in her day: she decided to pursue an education and a career. She made this decision out of a passion to be her own mistress, to determine her own future, to live her life differently than anyone around her. Within her lifetime, she earned not only the celebrity of being recognized by the American Academy of Nursing as a "Living Legend" but also the unofficial designation, bestowed by the College of Nursing of the University of California at Los Angeles, as "Psychiatric Nurse of the Century."

Peplau was an imaginative innovator who left an indelible stamp on the theory and practice of psychiatric nursing. Known as "The Mother of Psychiatric Nursing," she devoted herself to the redefinition, clarification, and expansion of nursing services for psychiatric patients—and left an enduring mark on graduate education for clinical specialization in nursing. Although her contributions continue to stimulate debate and discussion, there is no doubt that Hildegard Peplau almost single-handedly led psychiatric nurses from the confinement of providing custodial care in public mental hospitals to theory-driven professional practice.

Her work always involved great risks, both personal and professional. It took a woman of uncommon courage and resilience to continually push forward the boundaries in nursing education, to test radically new approaches in nursing theory and practice, and in the process to challenge and ultimately revolutionize entrenched practices in psychiatric care. Such a career was not without controversy. Peplau was both vilified and exalted over the 50-year span of her active work. Always at the center of conflict, and often enduring great personal hardship, she earned . . .

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