A concept analysis of uncertainty in illness

J Nurs Scholarsh. 2002;34(2):127-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1547-5069.2002.00127.x.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cognition*
  • Humans