Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Julie Apker

Second Advisor

Dr. Leah Omilion-Hodges

Third Advisor

Dr. Stacey Wieland


Social support, nursing, stress, friendship, communication

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The nursing profession is laden with numerous job, emotional labor, and communication stressors, which come from both patients and healthcare organizations. These frequent and simultaneous pressures can result in nurse burnout and turnover (Tracy, 2009). Socially supportive workplace communication has been identified as a solution to reducing nurse stress, burnout, and turnover (Apker & Ray, 2003), but has not specifically considered social support in nurse work friendships. A mixed qualitative method study was conducted with five nurse best friend pairs, using job observations of participants’ work friendship communication and individual and joint interviews. Two major communication themes emerged from the data, consisting of characteristics of close friendships and close friendship supportive communication behaviors during times of stress. Study findings highlight the importance of best friends at work and the supportive communication that they offer. This study extends research within the field of communication in health organizations by illuminating ways that nurse friends offer supportive communication during times of stress. Two particularly novel and unique findings from this study include how nurses use humor as a coping mechanism and how objects can be used to gain a deeper understanding of the nuances of close work friendships. Implications and limitations of the study and future directions are given.