Human to Human Relationship Model

The Human to Human Relationship Model of Nursing deals with the interpersonal aspects of nursing, focusing especially on mental health. Joyce Travelbee, who developed the theory, explained that “human-to-human relationship is the means through which the purpose of nursing is fulfilled.”

Travelbee based the assumptions of her model on the concepts of existentialism by Kierkegaard and logotherapy by Frankl. Existentialism believes that humans constantly face choices and conflicts and are accountable to the choices they make in life. Logotherapy is meaning-centered psychotherapy based on the assumption that meaning fulfillment in life is the best protection against emotional instability.

The Human to Human Relationship Model of Nursing has seven basic concepts. They are:

  • Suffering, which is “an experience that varies in intensity, duration and depth…a feeling of unease, ranging from mild, transient mental, physical or mental discomfort to extreme pain….”
  • Meaning, which is the reason attributed to a person
  • Nursing, which helps a person find meaning in the experience of illness and suffering; has a responsibility to help people and their families find meaning; and the nurse’s spiritual and ethical choices, and perceptions of illness and suffering, which are crucial to help patients find meaning.
  • Hope, which is a faith that can and will be a change that would bring something better with it. Six important characteristics of hope are: dependence on other people, future orientation, escape routes, the desire to complete a task or have an experience, confidence that others will be there when needed, and the acknowledgment of fears and moving forward towards its goal.
  • Communication, which is “a strict necessity for good nursing care.”
  • Self-therapy, which is the ability to use one’s own personality consciously and in full awareness in an attempt to establish relatedness and to structure nursing interventions. This refers to the nurse’s presence physically and psychologically.
  • Targeted intellectual approach by the nurse toward the patient’s situation.

Travelbee’s theory defines health in two categories: subjective and objective. Subjective health is an individually defined state of well being in accord with self-appraisal of the physical-emotional-spiritual status. Objective health is an absence of discernible disease, disability of defect as measured by physical examination, laboratory tests and assessment by spiritual director or psychological counselor.

Nursing is defined as “an interpersonal process whereby the professional nurse practitioner assists an individual, family or community to prevent or cope with experience or illness and suffering, and if necessary, to find meaning in these experiences.”

According to the model, nursing is accomplished through relationships between humans beginning with an original encounter and then progressing through stages of emerging identities, developing feelings of empathy and sympathy.

The nurse and patient establish a rapport in the final stage. Meeting the nursing goals requires the creation of a genuine human-to-human relationship, which can only be established by an interaction process. This process has five phases: the initial meeting or original encounter, the visibility of personal and emerging identities, empathy, sympathy, and establishing mutual understanding and rapport.