Deborah McDonald, RN, PhD

Associate Professor (PI)

School of Nursing

Research Overview

The aim of Deborah Dillon McDonald’s program of research is to identify and test strategies that assist older adults to communicate more effectively about their pain with their health care practitioners. The research is informed by the attuning strategies associated with communication accommodation theory. Our recent research indicates that initial use of an open-ended pain question without social desirability bias and use of follow-up questions significantly increases the amount of important pain information provided by older adults with osteoarthritis pain. Interruption significantly reduces the amount of pain information provided by older adults. Older adults most frequently communicate about the location, timing and intensity of their osteoarthritis pain. Our current pilot randomized clinical trial conducted in the primary care setting tests the effect of our virtual pain coach to assist older adults to talk with their health care practitioner about their pain. We plan to develop and test a Spanish version of the virtual pain coach in the near future.


Ph.D., Columbia University, 1990 (social psychology)
M.S., University of Connecticut, 1981 (nursing)
B.S., Marycrest College, 1975 (nursing)

Recent/Selected Publications

Google Scholar

Contact Information
Phone(860) 455-6200
Mailing Address231 Glenbrook Road
Unit 4026
Storrs, CT 06269-402