Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Department of Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Steve Schwarze

Commitee Members

Annie Sondag, Joel Iverson, Stephen Yoshimura


breaking bad news, college students, Health communication, holistic health care, patient-provider communication


University of Montana


The following study focuses on ways in which health care providers seem to competently breaking bad news to patients that are college age (18-25yrs old). Breaking bad news is an inevitable and daunting part of working in the health care profession. Delivering this type of news to college age students could occur more frequently than with other cohorts. Buckman (1992) presents methodology for teaching breaking bad news to health care providers in the form of the SPIKES model, which are similar to the identified “essential elements” of communication in medical encounters described by communication scholars (Makoul, 2001). Several interviews were conducted with college age participants who had bad news broken to them by a health care provider. These bad news situations ranged from STDs, death of a family member, life long illness, and sport injuries. Two over arching themes of effective and ineffective ways to break bad news were present in the data; the sub-categories of express caring and being direct were shown as effective ways to break bad news to college age students and robotic and non-responsive as ineffective. The findings presented in this study can provide health care providers with insight on how to improve communication skills when working with college age patients.



© Copyright 2012 Charlotte M. Glidden