First Advisor

Amador, Tristen


Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions

Degree Name

MS Health Services Administration

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Number of Pages

128 pages


The ability to read, understand, and act appropriately on healthcare information directly affects an individual's ability to access services and successfully communicate with healthcare providers. This ability is called health literacy and it includes the skills patients need to communicate with providers, read medical information, adhere to treatments, and decide when and how to seek medical care. Most of the research around health literacy has focused on patients’ experiences. In order to fully understand the problem, though, the experience of providers needs to be understood, too. The purpose of this study was to gain insight into nurses’ experience of patient health literacy. Nurses tend to have frequent interaction with patients and may be better equipped to assess the health literacy skills and needs of patients than other providers who have limited contact. This was a qualitative study designed to understand nurses’ definition, assessment, and influence on patient’s health literacy. The ten interviews with clinical care nurses resulted in eight themes related to their perception of health literacy and patient education. Nurses assess levels of health literacy on mental, emotional, and physical levels, mainly through one-on-one assessments, including observation, listening, and the written information provided at intake. The barriers to improving health literacy include patients’ shame around not being able to read, their emotional state, lack of motivation or interest in health, limited financial and educational resources, and being overwhelmed by the complexity of integrating knowledge with behavior change. Nurses’ perceive family members, cultural, and personal values as stronger influences on patient’s health literacy than accurate health education, even when materials are provided at appropriate reading levels, language, and from a reliable medical source. Finally, education is individualized and standardized, depending on the skill, interest and experience of the provider. Ultimately, nurses’ believe it the responsibility of the individual to experience greater levels of health literacy, contingent not just on education level, age, literacy and language, but more importantly by each individual’s motivation and interest in health.

Date of Award

Winter 2009

Location (Creation)

Denver, Colorado

Rights Statement

All content in this Collection is owned by and subject to the exclusive control of Regis University and the authors of the materials. It is available only for research purposes and may not be used in violation of copyright laws or for unlawful purposes. The materials may not be downloaded in whole or in part without permission of the copyright holder or as otherwise authorized in the “fair use” standards of the U.S. copyright laws and regulations.