The Relationship Between Nurses’ Religiosity and Willingness to let Patients Control the Conversation about End-of-Life Care

Stephanie Christopher, Marquette University

Accepted Version. Patient Education and Counseling, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 250–255 (February, 2010). DOI: 10.1016/j.pec.2009.05.018



The study attempts to examine the relationship between nurses’ religious beliefs and how nurses communicate with patients.


An online census survey was administered to graduate students in the School of Nursing at a Midwestern university. The survey was designed to measure: relational control, as measured by the subscales of dominance and task orientation in Burgoon and Hale's scale of relational communication; clinician empathy, as measured by the Jefferson scale of clinician empathy; and intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity, whether religious views are held for deep personal reasons or social reasons, as measured by the Maltby and Lewis scale. Data were analyzed using multiple regressions and one-way ANOVAs.


Intrinsic religiosity and empathy were both associated with the willingness to relinquish relational control in certain, specific contexts, such as end-of-life care.


Nurses who scored higher on a scale of intrinsic religious beliefs were more willing to let patients take control of conversations about end-of-life care.

Practice implications

A nurse's religious beliefs can enhance the clinical experience without the nurse trying to impose his or her beliefs on the patient, as the nurse works to make sure the patient's religious beliefs are upheld.