Nurses' experiences of uncertainty in clinical practice: A descriptive study

Mojtaba Vaismoradi, Mahvash Salsali, Fazlollah Ahmadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Aim. This paper is a report of a qualitative descriptive study of nurses' experiences of uncertainty in clinical practice. Background. Uncertainty as a complex phenomenon is inherent in many nursing and medical encounters and can vary along different dimensions. Despite the existence of studies on the theoretical definitions of uncertainty, few studies have been conducted to explore nurses' experiences in this regard and strategies employed by them to encounter situations of uncertainty in nursing practice. Methods. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2009 with 18 female bachelor's degree nurses working in a teaching hospital in an urban area of Iran. Content analysis was used to identify themes. Findings. The data analysis resulted in three main themes: 'unclear domain of practice', 'compatibility with uncertainty', 'psychological reactions to uncertainty'. The second theme consisted of two categories: 'losing sensitivity' and 'avoiding trouble'. The themes were not mutually exclusive or independent, but rather overlapping and intertwined. The themes and their related categories summarized the nurses' experiences of uncertain situations and the way they used to present efficacious care and meet patients' needs in spite of being immersed in uncertainty. Conclusion. Enhanced awareness and increased understanding about uncertainty can be important factors in improving nursing work environment and the quality of care presented to patients. The findings will be helpful for nurse managers to educate and prepare nurses in order to encounter uncertain situations in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)991-999
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2011


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