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Public Policy and Administration


Michael Knight


Several artifacts of federal policy address the connection between health literacy of patients and health outcomes. These laws include The Plain Writing Act, Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Even with this policy structure, little is known about how nurses' knowledge of health literacy may influence patient understanding of medical information and health outcomes. Using Knowles' principles of effective communication, the purpose of this mixed-methods study was to concurrently examine the relationship between nurse knowledge of health literacy and communication techniques used by nurses to identify any causal relationships in the provider-patient-interaction linking health literacy and health outcomes. Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered from 47 registered nurses in south Florida using an online survey. These data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and a content analysis procedure. Descriptive statistics revealed that there is a lack of health literacy knowledge among nurses and nurses rarely or never use Knowles' communication techniques to relay health information to patients. By contrast, content analysis of qualitative data revealed that nurses have a basic understanding of the complexities of health literacy. No correlation existed between a nurse's knowledge of health literacy and the use of appropriate and varied communication techniques when the data sets were merged. This finding suggests that there may be another root cause of low health literacy that requires additional research to fully explore. The positive social change implications stemming from this study include recommendations to policy makers to encourages changes to existing law and policy that supports patient communication training to nurses in order to improve health outcomes for patients.