Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type



Communication and Information Studies



First Advisor

Dr. Nancy Grant Harrington

Second Advisor

Dr. Derek R. Lane


Communication competence and medical communication competence served as the theoretical framework for this research that seeks to identify specific communication behaviors associated with what nurses say constitute a communicatively competent patient handoff at the nursing change of shift. Data collected from 286 nurses responding to an online modified Medical Communication Competence Scale posted at supported the hypotheses that information exchange (information giving, seeking and verifying) and socioemotional communication behaviors are rated more highly in the best patient handoffs than in the worst ones. Research questions found that the incoming nursing role rated behaviors associated with information verifying and socioemotional communication higher than did the outgoing nursing role, and that the worst handoffs were those in which the incoming nursing role gave the lowest ratings for information-giving behaviors. Additional insight into other communication-related characteristics associated with quality handoffs were provided as well, including location, tools/type and environment for the patient handoff at the nursing change of shift. These findings offer a foundation for future research into development of communication-based standardized patient handoff processes and training that ultimately may reduce patient care errors caused by communication failures during the patient handoff at the nursing change of shift.