“I Want Them to Still Trust Me with Their Child’s Care”: A Longitudinal Study of Pediatric Residents’ Reactions to and Communication with Parents about Medical Uncertainty across Residency

Anna M. Kerr, Charee M. Thompson, Claire A. Stewart, Alexander Rakowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Physicians in residency training experience high levels of medical uncertainty, yet they are often hesitant to discuss uncertainty with parents. Guided by the theory of motivated information management and a multiple goals perspective, this mixed-methods longitudinal study examines associations among residents’ tolerance of and reactions to uncertainty, efficacy communicating about uncertainty, and perceptions of parents’ trust in them as physicians. To contextualize these associations, we also examined residents’ task, identity, and relational goals when communicating about uncertainty with parents. We surveyed 47 pediatric residents at the beginning of each year of their residency program. As they progressed through their training, residents’ uncertainty-related anxiety and reluctance to communicate uncertainty to parents decreased, and their efficacy communicating uncertainty with parents increased. Residents’ concerns about bad outcomes remained unchanged. Residents pursued multiple, often conflicting, conversational goals when communicating uncertainty with parents. Results reveal important considerations for addressing how residents can manage their uncertainty in productive ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth communication
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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