A psychiatrist nurse, accomplished writer and educator, Joyce Travelbee was born in 1926. At the age of thirty in 1956, she acquired a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at Louisiana State University. Three years later she graduated with a Master of Science degree from Yale University. It was while at Louisiana State University that she was first appointed as an instructor, at DePaul Hospital Affiliate School, New Orleans. Her focus was mainly on psychiatric nursing. Travelbee later joined Charity Hospital School of Nursing in Louisiana State University, then University of Mississippi and New York University as an instructor. Joyce Travelbee started writing articles and journals in nursing in 1963, publishing the book “Interpersonal Aspects of Nursing” in 1966 in which she developed the Human-to-Human Relationship Model (Travelbee, 1963). Her second book “Intervention in Psychiatric Nursing” got published in 1969 (Travelbee, 1969).
Until her premature death at the age of forty seven, Travelbee had been appointed director to the School of Nursing at Louisiana State University.
The Human-to-Human Theory developed by Travelbee was based on Soren Kierkegaard’s concept of existentialism and Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy idea. Her experience working as a psychiatric nurse at catholic charity hospital made her believe that such institutions lacked compassion for patients. She argued that nursing needed a humanistic revolution focused on compassion. Human to human relationships, according to her, evolved through empathy and sympathy.
Nursing, according to Travelbee’s Human-to Human Relationship Model, is an interpersonal process that involves the practitioner assisting an individual or community in preventing or coping with illnesses, suffering or experiences (Travelbee, 1963).
The nurse’s ethnic and spiritual choices and perception of sickness or suffering are crucial in helping patients find meaning. Health, on the other hand, is either subjective or objective. She defines subjective health as a state of wellbeing in accordance to self-appraisal of physical, emotional and spiritual status (Travelbee, 1963). Objective health refers to the absence of any perceptible disease or disability on physical extermination, assessment by spiritual or psychological counselor or laboratory tests (Travelbee, 1963).
In nursing, a person is a human being (Travelbee, 1963). The patient and the nurse are both human beings. Human beings are unique, irreplaceable individuals who are in a continuous process of evolving and changing. Environment is, however, not clearly defined. She instead defines conditions, and life experiences encountered by all human beings as sufferings, pain, illness and hope (Travelbee, 1963). Suffering is defined as a feeling of displeasure ranging from mild mental, physical or spiritual discomfort to extreme anguish or phases of apathetic indifference. Pain is a unique experience that is not observable or communicable fully to another individual. Hope refers to the desire to accomplish a goal or the expectation that what is sought or desired is attainable.
In my opinion, the human-to-human relationship model transcends the physical and focuses more on the emotional and spiritual aspects individual patients. This holistic approach provides a sense of purpose and control especially to an already vulnerable patient. When all other methods fail, we must seek alternatives to provide patients with the best possible care. Travelbee recognized the need to focus on more than just the patient’s physical condition, but also on providing compassion and creating rapport with the patient (Nurses, 2010).
Her theory provides a perfect reference point to all nurses in nursing homes, hospitals and hospice settings today. I would recommend the Human-To-Human relationship Model in providing personalized care and treatment to patients all over the world today and in the future.