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Real-Life Scenarios

A Case Study Perspective on Health Communication

Athena du Pré and Eileen Berlin Ray

Publication Date - 01 November 2017

ISBN: 9780190623258

176 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

A collection of brief stories that highlight the importance of health communication terms, theories, and ethical dilemmas in real-life experiences


Developed by two acclaimed scholars, Real-Life Scenarios: A Case Study Perspective on Health Communication provides thirty-one cases that reflect the most current research and practice in the field. The variety of brief cases offers a diverse range of perspectives without monopolizing students' reading time. Rather than expert analysis, each case is followed by key terms and questions that challenge students to identify communication patterns, think critically, and self-reflect.

Athena du Pré is the author of the leading health communication text, Communicating About Health, and Eileen Berlin Ray is an award-winning health communication scholar with many books to her credit. Real-Life Scenarios can be used on its own, as a supplement to any text, or as an accompaniment to du Pré's Communicating About Health.


  • Illustrates the rich, real-life relevance of health communication and provides vivid insights into the experiences of people involved in many aspects of the health industry
  • Discussion questions after each chapter stimulate critical thinking and challenge students to apply terms and theories to actual practice
  • Brief chapters allow students to read the cases alongside chapters in other texts

About the Author(s)

Athena du Pré is Professor of Communication, Director of the Strategic Communication and Leadership master's degree program, and the graduate-level Health Communication Leadership certificate program at the University of West Florida. She is author of Oxford University Press' best-selling Communicating About Health and co-author of Understanding Human Communication and Essential Communication.

Eileen Berlin Ray is Professor of Communication and the former Undergraduate Program Director at Cleveland State University. She teaches and writes about health communication and gender.

Table of Contents


    Part I. Establishing a Context for Health Communication

    Chapter 1
    Friendship and Caregiving: Managing Identity in the Context of Breast Cancer
    Eryka Wallace and Mindi Ann Golden
    Two friends in their 20s experience dynamic shifts in their personal identities and relationship after one is diagnosed with breast cancer. Life lessons emerge about social support, relational dialectics, and uncertainty management.

    Chapter 2
    You Must Eat Your Broccoli: The Power of Metaphors in Arguing about Health Care
    M. Kelly Carr and Shelby Villatoro Calderon
    The surprising use of broccoli to define the Affordable Care Act reveals the power of simple metaphors to frame complex concepts and consequences. The case sheds light on the significance of digital media, familiar imagery, health literacy, and principles of public relations.

    Chapter 3
    The Coverage Gap Conundrum within the Affordable Care Act
    Christina A. Heine and Marifran Mattson
    Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 was designed to provide millions of Americans access to affordable healthcare, many people fell between the cracks known as the coverage gap. A college student describes her dilemma trying to find affordable coverage. Readers are challenged to consider the pros and cons of the individual mandate, Medicaid expansion, and assistance for people who want insurance but cannot afford it.

    Chapter 4
    Obamacare: The "More Affordable Than You Think" Care Act
    Matthew J. Stott and Deborah R. Bassett
    The Rodriguez family describes their experience with the Affordable Care Act and how its benefits helped pay for multiple life-saving surgeries and spared the family from personal tragedy and financial hardship. Their journey illustrates the real-life implications of health reform measures involving vulnerable populations and people with pre-existing conditions.

    Part II. The Roles of Patients and Professional Caregivers

    Chapter 5

    Symbols of Encouragement: A Gift to a Child Patient
    Jimmy Orum and Bryan B. Whaley
    A 12-year-old patient finds comfort and inspiration when a physician gives her a symbolic gift during a difficult time. Implications arise in terms of supportive communication, illness narratives, and uncertainty management.

    Chapter 6
    With a Little Help from Our (Furry) Friends
    Jill Yamasaki and Elizabeth Hedrich
    A hospital nurse discovers a rewarding way to connect with and care for a critically ill patient during a personal pet visit with the woman's beagle. The experience involves integrative, family-centered care and the benefits that animal companions can offer.

    Chapter 7
    "Blood Pressure Doesn't Lie:" A Prison Nurse Describes a Patient She'll Never Forget
    Valeria Bryant and Nicole Defenbaugh
    Elements of power, freedom, and quality of life arise in a clinical relationship between an inmate and a nurse concerned about his health. The case brings to light issues of cultural awareness, empathy, narrative medicine, and patient-centered care.

    Chapter 8
    Dr. Mom: The Courage to Stand Alone
    Teresa L. Hart and Pamela Harlin
    The mother of a child with a disability faces a choice when conventional medical practitioners brush off a concern she thinks is critical to her child's health. Does mother know best? The answer presents implications for health information efficacy, naturopathy, shared decision making, and socioeconomics.

    Chapter 9
    A Broken Hip at 91
    Elizabeth A. McPherson, Amber K. Washington, and Jon F. Nussbaum
    The matriarch of a large family finds herself in changed circumstances when she suffers a broken bone. Relationships with her caregivers influence her healing process and state of mind. Implications for compassion, ageism, and communication accommodation arise.

    Chapter 10
    Physicians as Detectives: Managing Uncertainty in Patient Care
    Stephen Haas and Patricia Barlow
    Although physicians are widely perceived as having all the answers, this case describes what often happens behind the scenes as a doctor uses research, teamwork, and communication to manage the uncertainties surrounding a patient's diagnosis and treatment. The experience illuminates the impact of partnership building, self-doubt, and uncertainty management.

    Chapter 11
    The Intersection of Family, Health, & Interpersonal Communication: A Pediatric Conundrum
    Michael Pagano and Jonathan D. Hovell
    In a busy hospital emergency department, a PA-C (Physician Assistant-Certified) experiences communication difficulties with a patient's parent/guardian. Elements arise in terms of shared power and authority, dialectic tensions, and family communication.

    Part III. Sociocultural Issues

    Chapter 12
    Lost (and Found) in Translation: The Community Pharmacist as Health Communicator
    Brian Ranelli and Elizabeth Rattine-Flaherty
    A community pharmacist manages the challenges of caring for patients with limited English language proficiency, emphasizing the need for cultural awareness, skilled use of interpreters, and effective counseling and patient advocacy.

    Chapter 13
    Breaking Bad News to Low-Literacy Patients
    Rachael Nola and Mary M. Step
    Carla is stunned when she receives the bad news that she has cervical cancer. When her situation worsens, she learns she cannot walk her path alone. Her experience brings up issues of bad news delivery, family communication, health literacy, and Hospice care.

    Chaper 14
    "Our Hearts Are Like Boats:" Using Metaphors to Make Complex Information Understandable
    Hannah Szatkowski, David M. Peek, Lance S. Rintamaki
    A physician uses metaphors rather than medical jargon to help a family understand what is happening during a medical emergency. The scenario reveals tips for communicating with people who have health literacy challenges and integrating the Voice of Lifeworld with the Voice of Medicine.

    Chapter 15
    Sh*t My Family Says: A Family Deals with a Life-Threatening Illness
    Maura Little and Teri Thompson
    Humor serves as a coping mechanism and tension-breaker for a young family. Told from the perspective of a precocious 9-year-old, this experience stimulates consideration of the buffering hypothesis of social support, coordinated management of meaning, notions of normalcy, and emotional coping strategies.

    Chapter 16
    Integrative Medicine: Combining Ayurveda and Biomedicine
    Tyler R. Hamblin, Evelyn Y. Ho, and Anand Dhruva
    A cancer doctor who is also an Ayurveda practitioner treats a variety of patients with an integrative approach to health and illness. The case illustrates health as harmony, integrative medicine, and the voices of medicine and lifeworld.

    Chapter 17
    Supportive Relationships: Caring for Our Loved Ones in Chinese Culture
    Jiasi Hu and Elaine Hsieh
    Caring for a loved one who is going through a difficult illness can be financially, physically, and emotionally draining for all who are involved. In Chinese culture, expectations about who provides care and support can be overwhelming, as illustrated by two personal experiences. The case brings up issues of culture, collectivistic expectations, and shared decision-making.

    Part IV. Coping and Health Resources

    Chapter 18

    From Taboo to Tattoo: Raising Awareness and Destigmatizing the Topic of Suicide
    Kerry Sandell and Laura L. Ellingson
    In the wake of a peer's death by suicide, university students use a semicolon symbol
    to raise awareness about the often-taboo topic of suicide. The semicolon acts as a communication tool to share grief and inspire hope. Readers are encouraged to consider the impact of dialectics, social support, stigma, and suicide prevention.

    Chapter 19
    A Couple Manages the Uncertainties of Dementia and Decline
    Sean Sullivan and Jay Baglia
    A couple negotiates the challenges and appreciates the tender moments involved in end-of-life care. Their experiences bring to light cultural expectations about masculinity, challenges to medical advice, and the rewards and challenges of caring for a loved one at home.

    Chapter 20
    "Should I Bring You Back to Life?": Communication about DNR Orders
    David Pruett and Carma L. Bylund
    A medical resident struggles with discussing a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order with a patient and her daughter. Readers experience the challenges of discussing a sensitive but important subject and the important role of health communication skills training.

    Chapter 21
    Experiencing My Sister's Death: A Painful Yet Sacred Space
    Sandra L. Ragan and Mandy Fernandez
    Despite a host of interpersonal complexities and without the benefit of palliative care other than pain management, the writer's sister manages to die a good death on her own terms. The experience illustrates the significance of anticipatory grief, cultural collaboration, emotional support, and intergenerational differences.

    Chapter 22
    My Doctor's Computer Gets More Attention than I Do
    Madeleine Gunther and Barbara Cook Overton
    A patient seeking mental health counseling has a difficult time connecting with her new physician, who is preoccupied with an electronic medical records system. The case shows how computers and electronic prompts can interfere with communication and trust building, frustrating both patients and caregivers.

    Chapter 23
    Confused to Empowered: The Use of Electronic Medical Records in Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
    Murphy Powell, Jordan M. Alpert, and Richard F. Brown
    A cancer patient in remission views alarming information on her patient portal about a recent diagnostic test result. Implications are presented for information seeking, patient empowerment, and the pros and cons of health communication conveyed electronically.

    Part V. Communication in Health Organizations

    Chapter 24

    Trust, Respect, and Interdisciplinary Teamwork
    Patricia Barlow
    A hospital nurse struggles to gain the attention of a busy, off-site physician as a patient's condition spirals downward. The dilemma highlights issues of advocacy, hierarchy, interdisciplinary teamwork, and the tyranny of the urgent.

    Chapter 25
    "Uh-oh. It Looks Like Our CEO Is a Crook": The Face of Pharmaceutical Greed
    Valerie Thornewell and Kurt Wise
    A pharmaceutical CEO becomes the focal point of nationwide hatred, but the company he led has very little to say in response, leaving its corporate reputation at risk. Straight from the headlines, this case challenges readers to consider crisis management, ethics, public relations, and reputation management.

    Part VI. Media, Public Policy, and Health Promotion

    Chapter 26

    The Pink Elephant in the Room: Breast Cancer Awareness Marketing
    Alexandra Hayes and Kathleen Stansberry
    A diverse array of breast cancer survivors question the sincerity of companies and organizations that engage in pink marketing, and express concern over the continued focus on awareness. Their perspectives challenge the notion that pink imagery is an accurate presumption of what breast cancer is and who breast cancer survivors are. Implications are presented for cause marketing, identity, and health campaigns.

    Chapter 27
    The Hunger to Look Like the Cover Girl: Media Influences on Body Image
    Shawna Moore and Steven Giles
    A pre-teen responds to media images and social pressures to look a certain way. Her experience brings up issues of body image, media influence, objectification theory, and social comparison theory.

    Chapter 28
    Barriers to Talk About Microbial Risk: The Case of Barbershops in Sub-Saharan Africa
    Jean Claude Kwitonda and Austin Babrow
    In a barbershop, an informal context for health care, barbers and their customers seek to manage the often-conflicting goals of sharing information about health risks and the desire to show courtesy, avoid social stigma, and earn money.

    Chapter 29
    Sex Trafficking Survivors Use Dance and Color to Share Their Stories
    Brandy Gottlieb and Ambar Basu
    A young woman rescued from sex trafficking shares her story through dance and shows the healing role that storytelling and the creative arts can play. The experience involves narratives, social support, coping, and the vulnerability of marginalized communities.

    Chapter 30
    "We Don't Want to Know": HIV from a Cultural Perspective
    Monika Kochanova and Renée A. Botta
    A married couple from Zambia faces a challenging situation as the HIV/AIDS epidemic overwhelms the country, yet the risks of being infected do not influence the couple's decision to avoid being tested. Their perspective highlights the role of culture, efficacy, gender, stigma, and identity.

    Chapter 31
    International Teamwork in Public Health: Collaborating on Applied Research
    Melissa Puckett
    Researchers discuss their involvement with a multi-partner public health project designed to reduce sexual harassment on Mexico City buses. Insights and lessons for health campaign promotion are presented in terms of collective efficacy, a critical-cultural approach, and normative social behavior.

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