A Description of Communication Patterns Used by Baccalaureate Nursing Students When Interacting With Patients in the Clinical Setting

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Anna Brock

Advisor Department



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 conveyed 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 respectful-dignified manner. Findings from this study supported Duldt's theory of humanistic nursing communication as potentially useful framework for practice, education, and research.