Date of Award

Fall 12-2007

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Anna Brock

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Dr. Bonnie Harbaugh

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Dr. James T. Johnson

Committee Member 4

Dr. Richard Conville


Literature suggests that nurses and nursing students are ineffective communicators and that patients are dissatisfied with interpersonal relationships in clinical settings. Poor communication may lead to various negative consequences for both patients and nurses. The purpose of this study was to describe communication patterns used by baccalaureate nursing students when interacting with patients in clinical settings. The following research questions were developed to guide this study: 1) What are the messages frequently used by baccalaureate nursing students? 2) Do baccalaureate nursing students tend to convey humanized or dehumanized attitudes? and 3) What is the most frequent pattern of interaction used by baccalaureate nursing students when interacting with patients?

The non-participant observation method was used to collect the data. Based on Duldt’s Humanistic Nursing Communication Theory (Duldt & Giffin, 1985), data were collected using the Nursing Communication Observation Tool (Duldt, 1986/1996). Fourth-semester senior students attending a School of Nursing in the southern region of the United States were invited to participate in the study. Student-patient interactions (N=178) were analyzed to answer the study’s questions.

Findings were: (1) senior baccalaureate nursing students used both “Feelings” and “Facts” messages during their interactions with patients; (2) in two-thirds of the interactions, students were able to convey their messages in a humanized manner; and (3) students’ main pattern of interaction was communing, where they recognized the individual’s human characteristics and dealt with patients in a respectful and dignified manner.

Findings from this study supported Duldt’s theory of humanistic nursing communication as potentially useful framework for practice, education, and research.