Uncertainty in complex healthcare settings – The need for a comprehensive approach

Anke J. M. Oerlemans, Wyke J. P. Stommel, Chris M. Verhaak, Annelou L. C. de Vries, Floor A. H. Cuijpers, Mieke Breukelman, Marij A. Hillen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/Letter to the editorAcademic


Uncertainty is increasingly recognized as a crucial phenomenon throughout medical practice. Research on uncertainty so far has been scattered across disciplines, leading to a lack of consensus about what uncertainty represents and minimal integration of knowledge obtained within isolated disciplines. Currently, a comprehensive view of uncertainty which does justice to normatively or interactionally challenging healthcare settings is lacking. This impedes research teasing apart when and how uncertainty manifests, how all stakeholders experience and value it, and how it affects medical communication and decision-making. In this paper, we argue that we need a more integrated understanding of uncertainty. We illustrate our argument using the context of adolescent transgender care, in which uncertainty occurs in myriad ways. We first sketch how theories of uncertainty have emerged from isolated disciplines, leading to a lack of conceptual integration. Subsequently, we emphasize why it is problematic that no comprehensive approach to uncertainty has yet been developed, using examples from adolescent transgender care. Finally, we advocate an integrated approach of uncertainty to further advance empirical research and to ultimately benefit clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107721
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023

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