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Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Humanities

First Advisor

M. Ann Brady


This thesis examines digital technologies used by technical communicators in healthcare settings. I show that technical communicators, who function as users, advocators and evaluators, need a useable framework for ethical engagement with digital technologies, which integrally affect the physician-patient relationship. Therefore, I apply rhetorical methodology by producing useable knowledge and phenomenological methodology by examining lived experiences of technical communicators. Substantiation comes from theories spanning technical communication, philosophy, and composition studies. Evidence also emerges from qualitative interviews with communication professionals working in healthcare; my concerns arise from personal experiences with electronic recordkeeping in the exam room. This thesis anticipates challenging the presumed theory-practice divide while encouraging greater disciplinary reciprocity. Because technical communication infuses theory into productive capacity, this thesis presents the tripartite summons of the ethical technical communicator: to exercise critically-reflective action that safeguards the physician-patient relationship by ways of using digital technologies, advocating for audiences, and evaluating digital technologies.