• Model;
  • nursing;
  • social information processing;
  • theory


Title. Application of a model of social information processing to nursing theory: how nurses respond to patients.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to assess the applicability of a theoretical model of social information processing in expanding a nursing theory addressing how nurses respond to patients.

Background.  Nursing communication affects patient outcomes such as anxiety, adherence to treatments and satisfaction with care. Orlando’s theory of nursing process describes nurses’ reactions to patients’ behaviour as generating a perception, thought and feeling in the nurse and then action by the nurse. A model of social information processing describes the sequential steps in the cognitive processes used to respond to social cues and may be useful in describing the nursing process.

Methods.  Cognitive interviews were conducted in 2006 with a convenience sample of 5 nurses in the United States of America. The data were interpreted using the Crick and Dodge model of social information processing.

Findings.  Themes arising from cognitive interviews validated concepts of the nursing theory and the constructs of the model of social information processing. The interviews revealed that the support of peers was an additional construct involved in the development of communication skills, creation of a database and enhancement of self-efficacy.

Conclusion.  Models of social information processing enhance understanding of the process of how nurses respond to patients and further develop nursing theories further. In combination, the theories are useful in developing research into nurse–patient communication. Future research based on the expansion of nursing theory may identify effective and culturally appropriate nurse response patterns to specific patient interactions with implications for nursing care and patient outcomes.