Nursing News

Happy Birthday and Thank You Hildegard!

Annually, the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) celebrates CNS Week during the first week of September. We do this in honor of Dr. Hildegard Peplau, Ed.D., RN (1909 – 1999), who established the CNS role.  September 1st is her birthday.  If she were alive today, she would be 112-years-old.  The CNS role has been in existence for 65 years with nearly 90,000 CNSs currently practicing in the United States.

Click here to wish Dr. Peplau a Happy Birthday and maybe leave a few words on what the CNS role means to you.

Dr. Hildegard Peplau, RN, Ed.D

Couldn’t Hold Her Back

Energy, intelligence and curiosity were Dr. Peplau’s characteristics.  Born to immigrant parents in Pennsylvania she succeeded in furthering her education at a time when women usually did not  pursue higher education and in some cases were discouraged from doing so.  She worked in hospitals in Pennsylvania and New York City as well as studying psychology with luminaries like Erich FrommFrieda Fromm-Reichmann and Harry Stack Sullivan.  She furthered her experience serving as a nurse during WW II and working with the American School of Military Psychiatry while stationed in England.

Her landmark book Theory of Interpersonal Relations was completed in 1948 but took four years to publish as there was no male physician co-author and society had a hard time accepting the fact that a nurse could publish a scholarly work.  With its publication she became the first published nursing theorist since Florence Nightingale.

Her theory of a shared experience between the nurse and patient was viewed as revolutionary in the early 1950’s.  At that time, typically, everyone involved in patient care, including the patient, were passive participants, following instructions from the doctor.  Dr. Peplau’s idea was that a shared experience between patient and nurse would greatly improve outcomes through the active use of observation, description, formulation, interpretation, validation, and intervention.

Dr. Hildegard Peplau, RN, Ed.D

A few years after the publication of her seminal book, she established the first nursing master’s degree program with a focus exclusively on clinical practice at Rutgers University School of Nursing. Graduates of this program were called clinical specialists and the course of study emphasized the nurse-client relationship as the foundation for the nursing practice.  Imagine creating an advanced program like this for, primarily, women in 1950s America.  She was clearly ahead of her times.

Honors and Accolades

Called the “Mother of Psychiatric Nursing” and the “Nurse of the Century”.  Dr. Peplau held master’s and doctoral degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University and was certified in psychoanalysis by the William Alanson White Institute of New York City.   An advisor to the World Health Organization she served as a consultant to the U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1998 she was inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame.

Happy Birthday Hildegard!

Celebrate CNS Week by wishing the founder of the CNS role Happy Birthday today by clicking here.

For more information on Dr. Peplau: