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Significance of nurses' caring disposition and communication with patients in healthcare delivery

Significance of nurses' caring disposition and communication with patients in healthcare delivery


Standing at the forefront of patient care, the nursing profession in Hong Kong has been facing with strains of acute shortage for many years. Under this backdrop, what is the significance of nurses’ caring disposition and communication with patients in healthcare delivery? In this issue, Dr E. Angela Chan, Associate Head and Associate Professor of PolyU’s School of Nursing, shares her views on this issue.

1. What significance does nurses’ caring disposition have in healthcare delivery?

“Caring” is an essential part of the art and science of nursing. It is based on humanistic values such as compassion, empathy, concern, warmth, patience, and hope. Without an emphasis on caring, task-oriented medical treatments on patients will overshadow the importance of caring for a person with illness. This is especially important in today’s healthcare environment with increasing patient complexity, shortage of human resources, and an emphasis on effectiveness and efficiency.

2. In clinical settings, is communication important in the caring disposition of nurses?

Effective communication with patients and their families is a mainstay in caring. It is important to understand the needs of patients through effective communication. What is important to patients? It is not only about what and how something is being said, but also nurses’ caring intention. Hence both verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication facilitate nurse-patient partnership and relationship building to optimize patients’ physical and emotional well-being. The implementation of therapeutic communication can encourage patients to participate in the decision-making of their illness management. Also, communication with sensitivity shows nurses’ respect for patients.

3. Is nurses’ perception of communication affecting their behaviour in interacting with patients?

When nurses perceive that their communication and relationship building requires prolonged nurse-patient interactions, it affects their motivation to initiate communication with patients, as nurses think that it will take extra time. They are also reluctant to put communication into action when they have to allocate a scheduled amount of time to communicate with every patient. Consequently, nurses’ perception of nurse-patient communication could shape and hinder their communication with patients.

However, my recent study suggests that relationship building with patients can be developed through short yet iterative encounters. In clinical settings, many nurses have endeavoured to integrate communication with patients into routines in order to provide the needed psychosocial care. Effective communication and good relationship with patients can actually help nurses to save time.

4. Are there any barriers or difficulties preventing nurses from communicating effectively with patients?

Apart from nurses’ perception of communication, other barriers that function to restrict nurses’ communication with patients include time constraint, staffing problems, ward culture and support, trend of manifold documentations, patients’ experience and nurses’ knowledge and experience.

5. Please share with us your recent research project on nurse-patient communication.

Recently, I have conducted a pilot research to explore the relationship between nurse-patient communication and the perceived available time for communication. It is a qualitative research where focus group interviews have been adopted. The findings reveal that nurses’ communication behavior is closely related to their perception of communication. There is a need for a paradigm shift in thinking that therapeutic communication requires extensive time. Additionally, nurses should recognize the value of short iterative interactions and chitchat as quality communication that allows them to better understand their patients and provide patient-centred care.


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