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Title:"We don't like to call it lying, it's just therapeutic communication": Understanding the influence of social support on coping with illness uncertainty
Author(s):Stone, Anne M.
Director of Research:Caughlin, John P.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Caughlin, John P.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Lammers, John C.; Knobloch, Leanne K.; Huhman, Marian
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Alzheimer's disease
social support
Abstract:Nursing training stresses the importance of communication in providing care to patients; however, research on communication in particular nursing contexts has trailed behind training programs implemented to improve communication efforts. Training interventions are often limited by a cursory understanding of what makes interactions successful versus unsuccessful and often highlight nonverbal communication as being more important than what is actually said. This investigation explored the role of uncertainty for nurses and care assistants communicating support to patients and family members coping with Alzheimer’s disease. Using Goldsmith’s (2004) normative approach to frame this study, I conducted semi-structured interviews with 32 nurses and care assistants about the role of communication in the context of Alzheimer’s nursing. Each interview was transcribed verbatim and analyzed using constant comparative techniques of grounded theory. To determine the role of communication in nurses’ interactions with Alzheimer’s patients and their families, my analysis focused on five areas: (a) sources of uncertainty for nurses and care assistants, (b) communicative management of uncertainty, (c) ways of communicating support to family members, (d) dilemmas of communicating support, and (e) strategies for managing communicative dilemmas perceived as effective in nursing care. The sources of uncertainty participants reported experiencing become implicated in the complex communication situations that that nurses and care assistants deal with in their work. For example, communicating various types of informational support is a strategy for managing family member’s uncertainty about the illness itself as well as relational questions about how to relate to their loved one in a nursing care facility. The findings from this study highlight the importance of enacted support through communication in the context of Alzheimer’s care nursing. Practical implications of these findings for Alzheimer’s care nurses as well as nurses in other specialties are described. Theoretical implications for literature on communicating social support and uncertainty management are discussed with reference to these findings, and limitations and directions for future research are outlined.
Issue Date:2011-08-26
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Anne M. Stone
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-27
Date Deposited:2011-08

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