Hildegard E. Peplau


Honorary Degree (1994)
Doctor of Science
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Thomas Ehrlich


Hildegard Peplau is a visionary leader who is responsible for creating the specialty of psychiatric nursing. Beginning with the publication of her book Interpersonal Relations in Nursing in 1952, Dr. Peplau devoted herself to shaping psychiatric nursing into a field distinct from medical psychiatry. In addition, she enormously influenced the science of nursing itself, expanding nurses' roles in practice, education and health care policy.

Throughout her career, Dr. Peplau has challenged the prevailing view of the nurse as a doctor's assistant. She has encouraged nurses' involvement in therapeutic assessment and treatment of patients. Her writings on interpersonal theory in nursing practice form the essential conceptual approach to what nursing is today. Combining clinical experience with scientific rigor, she has created a body of knowledge that has transformed the field of nursing. While Dr. Peplau has influenced nursing on national and international levels, she has done particularly beneficial work for the state of Indiana. From 1956 to 1969, Dr. Peplau conducted clinical workshops on psychiatric nursing in Indiana state hospitals in Madison, Logansport, Central, Evansville, and Richmond. From 1956 to 1961, Dr. Peplau consulted with the Indiana University Department of Psychiatric/Metal Health Nursing on curriculum matters.

Dr. Peplau served as the chairperson of the committee that wrote Nursing: A Social Policy Statement (1980), the document that is credited with defining the scope of contemporary nursing practice. She also served on an advisory panel for the World Health Organization and as a consultant to the National Institute of Mental Health and the United States Public Health service. As professor at Rutgers University College of Nursing, Dr. Peplau directed that school's graduate program in psychiatric nursing for seventeen years. She was president of the American Nurses' Association and third vice president of the International Congress of Nurses (1979-82).

Dr. Peplau holds honorary degrees from numerous universities, including the Ohio State University, Columbia University, Duke University, and Rutgers University.