Intentions of nurses and nursing students to tell the whole truth to patients and family members

Nili Tabak, Michal Itzhaki*, Dganit Sharon, Sivia Barnoy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and objectives: To investigate the intentions of nurses and nursing students to telling the truth to patients and families, based on the Theory of Planned Behavior which examines intention to perform behaviours. Background: In recent decades, the perception that patients have a moral and legal right to truthful and reliable information has become dominant. However, the study of telling the truth to non-oncology patients has received scant attention and little is known about the intention of nurses and nursing students to tell the truth. Design: A cross-sectional design. Methods: We used a scenario-based questionnaire, illustrating eight different situations in which nurses/nursing students are asked to tell the truth to a patient or family member regarding a devastating disease with which the patient is afflicted. Data were analysed using the Mann-Whitney U-test and ridge regression. Results: The sample included 150 participants, 110 registered nurses and 40 third year nursing students, with a response rate of 87%. The results show that nurses and nursing students intend to tell the whole truth even if this is not easy for them. Nurses more than students think that it is important to tell the whole truth and intend to do so. Head nurses tend to tell the truth more than staff nurses. For nurses, the components of the Theory of Planned Behaviour predicted intention to tell the truth, whereas among students subjective norms were the only predictor of intention. Conclusion: The Theory of Planned Behaviour is a powerful predictor of nurse intention to tell the whole truth to patients and their families. Students perceive social pressure as the most important incentive of their intention to tell the truth. Relevance to clinical practice: Nurses and nursing students should receive additional training in dealing with various situations involving truth telling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1434-1441
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Intention
  • Nurses
  • Nursing students
  • Patients
  • Subjective norm
  • Theory of Planned Behaviour
  • Truth telling


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