Testing Mishel's Theory of Uncertainty in Illness Using Patients Hospitalized with Cancer

Tuesday, 13 July 2010: 4:05 PM

Glenda Lady Kaminski, PhD, RN
Oncology, Lakeland Regional Medical Center, Lakeland, FL

Learning Objective 1: Describe Mishel's Uncertainty in Illness theory in relationship to patients who are hospitalized for cancer-related treatment.

Learning Objective 2: Discuss theory testing methods and outcomes as they relate to nursing education, research, and practice.


The purpose of this study is to test Mishel’s Theory of Uncertainty in Illness among patients hospitalized with cancer. Specifically, do (1) predictor variables prescribed by the model and (2) the feeling of being cared for by one’s nurse influence the individual’s perception of uncertainty?


A predictive correlational, cross-sectional design was used. The relationship between the independent variables (antecedents), and the dependent variable (uncertainty) was examined. In addition, the relationship of a new predictor variable, feeling cared for by one’s nurses, was added to test for an enhanced ability to predict uncertainty.


Two hypotheses were tested for relationships among the variables of the theoretical model using multiple regression analysis. Hypothesis 1 stated that there would not be any significant contribution between the predictor variables (antecedents) of patient level of education, credible authority, social support, length of diagnosis, and familiarity with environment and the feeling of uncertainty in hospitalized cancer patients. Only familiarity with environment and credible authority significantly contributed to the model. Hypothesis 2 added feeling cared for by one’s nurses as an antecedent; the null hypothesis was not rejected, although a significant correlational relationship was found to exist between feeling care for and lower scores of uncertainty.


Results of this study provide knowledge of the variables that influence uncertainty within the context of a cancer-related hospitalization. These findings lend support to the use of Mishel’s midrange theory to promote the nursing process in education and to guide nursing practice. Future research should focus on identification of latent variables not identified in this study that contribute to uncertainty in illness, and the role of the nurse as a credible authority for patients with cancer.