Negotiating the equivocality of palliative care: a grounded theory of team communicative processes in inpatient medicine

Christy J.W. Ledford, Mollie Rose Canzona, Lauren A. Cafferty, Virginia B. Kalish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In the majority of U.S. hospitals, inpatient medicine teams make palliative care decisions in the absence of a formalized palliative system. Using a grounded theory approach, interviews with inpatient team members were systematically analyzed to uncover how participants conceptualize palliative care and how they regard the communicative structures that underlie its delivery. During analysis, Weick’s model of organizing emerged as a framework that fit the data. The 39 participant inpatient team members discussed palliative care as primarily a communicative process. Themes describing the meaning of palliative care emerged around the concepts of receiver of care, timeline of care, and location of care. The emerging model included four stages in the communicative processes of inpatient palliative care: (a) interpret the need, (b) initiate the conversation, (c) integrate the processes, and (d) identify what works. In contrast to stable, focused palliative care teams or hospice care teams, which have prescribed patient populations and processes, the inpatient medicine team faces the equivocality of providing palliative care within a broader practice. This research offers a four-phase model to show how these inpatient teams communicate within this context. Implications for the provision of palliative care are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)536-543
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 3 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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