How patients make sense of a diabetes diagnosis: An application of Weick's model of organizing

Christy J W Ledford, Carla L Fisher, Lauren A Cafferty, Jeremy T Jackson, Paul F Crawford, Dean A Seehusen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


AIMS: To identify communication cycles patients use to make sense of a diabetes diagnosis and barriers patients encounter in their sensemaking process.

METHODS: Researchers conducted interviews with 33 participants with type 2 diabetes mellitus or prediabetes at medical centers in Georgia and Nevada. A thematic analysis using the constant comparative method identified communication cycles.

RESULTS: Patients reported engaging three communication cycles to make sense of the diagnosis: (1) interacting with healthcare clinicians; (2) seeking information online; and (3) taking a nutrition/diabetes management class. Patients reported system-level barriers that impact sensemaking: (1) lack of consistent or routine care; and (2) lack of access to resources.

CONCLUSION: Results here reinforce the theoretical proposition that receiving a diagnosis is an equivocal process that requires patients to make sense of new information through communication cycles. Patients in this sample repeatedly described communication cycles to interpret this new information rather than relying on assembly rules. Clinicians can promote patient understanding of diabetes and self-management by taking time to explain the diagnosis, maintaining consistent care, providing guidance to online sources, and ensuring patients have access to diabetes education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108117
JournalDiabetes research and clinical practice
StatePublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2/diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


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