Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Judith A. Cohen

Second Advisor

Kim Dittus



Background: For patients with life-limiting illnesses, having adequate knowledge of prognosis can strongly impact the choice between curative and supportive treatment.

Objectives: The purpose of this research study is to explore patient understanding of prognosis and to illuminate the experience of having or not having prognostic information in people diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses. This study aims to investigate the patient's understanding of the term "prognosis", the significance of the term "prognosis" to the patient, and how prognosis may or may not affect future treatment choices. In addition, this study aims to further understand the experience of prognostic communication between provider and patient. The over-arching goal is to capture the personal perspectives of participants with a view to exploring their experiences around knowledge of their prognosis.

Methods: A qualitative research design using a phenomenological approach was employed to examine how people experience prognosis. An invitation to participate in the study was publically announced via local newspapers, social media venues, and word of mouth. Participants who responded to study advertisements and who met inclusion criteria were asked to participate in one interview answering open-ended questions aimed at examining their experience with and knowledge of their prognosis. In addition, questions about prognostic communication between patient and health care provider were explored. All interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using phenomenological methods.

Results: Three study participants met the study criteria and were interviewed. Several themes emerged from the data including 1) patients have need for information about their illness, 2) prognostic data inform treatment choices, 3) patient experiences are unique and 4) patients feel a connection to nurses involved in their care.

Conclusions: This study illuminated the patients' desire and need for information during their illness, the desire for patient autonomy, the difficulty of starting and having prognostic conversations, the downstream impact of having prognostic information, and the important role that nurses play for patients facing serious health issues. It is hopeful that the themes identified during the course of this research ultimately contribute to the knowledge base by informing healthcare providers on the importance of conveying prognostic information in a timely, direct, and sensitive manner.



Number of Pages

102 p.