Intentions of nurses and nursing students to tell the whole truth to patients and family members

Authors

  • Nili Tabak PhD, RN, LL.B,

    Professor, Head of MA Program and Head of Ethics Unit
    1. Nursing Department, School of Health Professions, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
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    • Prof. Tabak and Dr Itzhaki contributed equally to this manuscript.

  • Michal Itzhaki PhD, RN,

    Lecturer, Senior Teacher, Corresponding author
    1. Ziva Tal Academic School of Nursing, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer
    • Nursing Department, School of Health Professions, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
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    • Prof. Tabak and Dr Itzhaki contributed equally to this manuscript.

  • Dganit Sharon PhD, RN,

    Lecturer and Head of Nursing Department
    1. School of Social and Community Sciences, Ruppin Academic Center, Emeq-Hefer, Israel
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  • Sivia Barnoy PhD, RN

    Senior Lecturer and Head of Nursing Department
    1. School of Health Professions, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
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Correspondence: Michal Itzhaki, Lecturer, Nursing Department, School of Health Professions, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel. Telephone: +972 3 6407157.

E-mail: michal.itzhaki@sheba.health.gov.il

Abstract

Aims and objectives

To investigate the intentions of nurses and nursing students to telling the truth to patients and families, based on the Theory of Planned Behavior which examines intention to perform behaviours.

Background

In recent decades, the perception that patients have a moral and legal right to truthful and reliable information has become dominant. However, the study of telling the truth to non-oncology patients has received scant attention and little is known about the intention of nurses and nursing students to tell the truth.

Design

A cross-sectional design.

Methods

We used a scenario-based questionnaire, illustrating eight different situations in which nurses/nursing students are asked to tell the truth to a patient or family member regarding a devastating disease with which the patient is afflicted. Data were analysed using the Mann–Whitney U-test and ridge regression.

Results

The sample included 150 participants, 110 registered nurses and 40 third year nursing students, with a response rate of 87%. The results show that nurses and nursing students intend to tell the whole truth even if this is not easy for them. Nurses more than students think that it is important to tell the whole truth and intend to do so. Head nurses tend to tell the truth more than staff nurses. For nurses, the components of the Theory of Planned Behaviour predicted intention to tell the truth, whereas among students subjective norms were the only predictor of intention.

Conclusion

The Theory of Planned Behaviour is a powerful predictor of nurse intention to tell the whole truth to patients and their families. Students perceive social pressure as the most important incentive of their intention to tell the truth.

Relevance to clinical practice

Nurses and nursing students should receive additional training in dealing with various situations involving truth telling.

Ancillary