Date of Award

Spring 1999

Document Type



Communication Studies

First Advisor

Charlotte Jones

Second Advisor

Pravin Rodrigues

Third Advisor

John Christenson


Health communication is a fairly recent and currently growing area of the medical field. The diagnostic phase of many medical encounters can be the making, or breaking point of future relationships for the physician and patient (Blum, 1972). Many studies have examined how the physician's communication affects the relationship. However, few studies have investigated diagnosis in clinical setting with the exceptions of Heath (1987), Maynard (1991), and Nikolaisen (1998). Moreover, none have been found on the delivery and reception of diagnosis in the surgical setting. Research reveals that the diagnostic phase in physician/patient relationships is a crucial one in establishing adherence, compliance, and foundations for future relationships (Blum, 1972). As the diagnostic phase is present in every surgical encounter, it is important to further examine its content. Specifically, this study investigates delivery and reception in eleven surgery cases. In surgery, there is more to the diagnosis and reception than there would be in an encounter with a clinician, family practitioner, or general practitioner. In the case of surgery, there is a pre-diagnosis and reception, and a post-diagnosis and reception. Thus, the diagnostic phase of medical encounters is more complex in surgical cases. In general, the findings of this study indicate that the time span of the diagnostic delivery in surgery is longer than in general practice settings. The two-step phase of diagnostic delivery and reception in surgery is also a new finding indicated in this study. As for reception, I found, unlike others, mixed reception to be a category beyond good news and bad news reception. Overall, there were more similarities than differences between diagnostic delivery and reception in surgery to those findings of diagnostic delivery and reception in clinical settings.