Volume 34, Issue 2 p. 127-131

A Concept Analysis of Uncertainty in Illness

Kim M. McCormick

Corresponding Author

Kim M. McCormick

Kim M. McCormick, RN, MN, Graduate Student, University of Manitoba Faculty of Nursing, Winnipeg, Canada. The author acknowledges the valuable comments provided by Maureen Heaman, RN, PhD, on an earlier draft of this paper

Ms. McCormick, 43 Montclair Bay, Winnipeg, MB, R3T 4B4, Canada. Email: [email protected]Search for more papers by this author
First published: 23 April 2004
Citations: 110


Purpose: To examine the concept of uncertainty in illness and to propose an alternate model of uncertainty in the illness experience.

Organizing construct and methods: Following a review of the literature, Morse's description of concept analysis by critically appraising the literature was used as a guideline in examining the concept of uncertainty.

Findings: Characteristics of the illness situation-ambiguity, vagueness, unpredictability, unfamiliarity, inconsistency, and lack of information-underlie the process of uncertainty. Three attributes of the concept of uncertainty were identified as probability, temporality, and perception. Loss of personal control is often erroneously equated with uncertainty.

Conclusions: Uncertainty is a multidimensional concept that in its purest form is a neutral cognitive state and should not be mistaken for its emotional outcomes. To clarify the concept of uncertainty, further research is needed to determine the relationship of uncertainty to loss of control and psychosocial outcomes.