Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Robert C. Marshall

Second Advisor

Dr. Dana Howell


The majority of individuals in nursing homes have cognitive-communication impairments which impact quality of care because direct care providers, certified nursing assistants, (CNAs) are unsure how to respond to resident’s communication behaviors. One intervention that facilitates staff-resident communication in nursing homes is communication plans; however, the research to date about communication plans has not specifically involved CNAs.

The purpose of this study, using a grounded theory qualitative approach, was to describe development, implementation and evaluation of communication care plans (CCPs) for residents with cognitive-communication impairments in nursing homes by CNAs who did and did not receive professional support. Communication care plans are communication plans with the addition of autobiographical information. Twenty residents and ten CNAs from two nursing homes participated in the study. Once CCPs were created, CNA participants in one facility received support each day. Following two weeks, CNAs participated in a semi-structured interview. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using open, axial and selective coding.

Findings revealed a core category, meeting resident’s needs through professional support and communication, which describes the progressive process these CNAs underwent to effectively communicate with residents in nursing homes using CCPs. Evolution of this process occurred as CNA participants became familiar with residents. An underlying component facilitating this familiarity was support during CCP implementation. Initially, these CNAs had negative views about nursing home care because they were unsure how to communicate with residents and received little support from higher levels of nursing authority. Over time and with application of CCPs, CNAs became familiar with residents and their communication behaviors. Application of specific communication strategies on CCPs required ongoing support from the investigator/speech-language pathologist which was evident by the comments between CNA participants from each facility. Participants from both facilities reported positive experiences during application of the autobiographical information on the CCPs. This personal information coupled with increased knowledge about resident’s specific communication abilities fostered the formation of a relationship between residents and CNAs. In summary, support during application of CCPs supplements CNAs’ abilities to meet residents’ needs.