Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing Dissertations

Publication Date


Document Type

Dissertation, Doctoral


Graduate School of Nursing

Dissertation Committee Chair

Nancy Morris


constructive encounters, difficult encounters, home care, home health care, human-to-human relationship, mitigating risk, nonconstructive encounters, nurse-patient encounters, reciprocality, reciprocity, Nurse-Patient Relations, Home Care Services, Home Health Nursing, Home Nursing, Nurses, Community Health

Subject Categories

Health Services Administration | Nursing


The purpose of this study was to explore nurse-patient encounters from the perspective of the Home Healthcare Registered Nurse. A qualitative descriptive design was used to collect data from a purposive sample of 20 home healthcare registered nurses from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island currently or previously employed as a home healthcare nurse. Four themes and one interconnecting theme emerged from the data: Objective Language; Navigating the Unknown; Mitigating Risk; Looking for Reciprocality in the Encounter; and the interconnecting theme of Acknowledging Not All Nurse-Patient Encounters Go Well. One goal of the study was to propose an empirically informed definition of what constituted a difficult encounter. An important early finding was that the terms difficult patient and difficult encounter were not generally used by study participants. HHC RNs voiced a preference for objective and nonjudgmental language to communicate outcomes of nurse-patient encounters. Three types of HHC RN-patient interactions emerged from the data, with constructive encounters the norm and non-constructive or destructive encounters less frequent. A constructive encounter is when two or more human beings, the nurse on the one side, and the patient, caregiver, or both on the other, interact to achieve a mutually agreed upon outcome. A nonconstructive encounter is when one or more human beings obstruct efforts to achieve at least one positive outcome. A destructive encounter is when one or more human beings direct anger at or physically aggress toward another human being. Strategies to promote reciprocality are routinely employed during HHC RN-patient encounters, but HHC RNs who miss cues that a strategy is ineffective or failed may be at risk in the home. Study data lend support to key concepts, assumptions, and propositions of Travelbee’s (1971) Human-to-Human Relationship Model. Study results provide a foundation for further research to increase the understanding, recognition, and development of empirically derived responses to non-constructive or destructive encounters such that HHC RNs are safe and best able to meet patients’ healthcare needs.


Material from this dissertation has been published in: Falkenstrom MK. A Qualitative Study of Difficult Nurse-Patient Encounters in Home Health Care. ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 2016 Oct 28. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 27798435.



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