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January 2022

An investigation into the attitudes and practices of intensive care nurses towards verbal communication with unconscious patients

Author(s): Melby, V.

Journal/Book: J Clin Nurs. 1996; 5: Osney Mead, Oxford, Oxon, England OX2 0EL. Blackwell Science Ltd. 185-192.

Abstract: This study attempted to investigate the attitudes and practices of intensive care nurses towards verbal communication with unconscious patients. A sample of five staff nurses working in an intensive care unit in Northern Ireland formed the basis for the study. The research design was non-experimental and descriptive-exploratory in nature, incorporating 4-hourly observational periods and structured interviews. Qualitative and quantitative analysis indicated that intensive care nurses spend on average 5% of their time verbally communicating with unconscious patients. Most of this communication involves informing the patient of immediate procedural matters or providing reassuring statements. Most intensive care nurses claim that verbal communication with unconscious patients is very important, and some ambiguity is apparent as to the unconscious patient's level of awareness. Major factors influencing communication are the patient's level of consciousness, the amount of physical care being given and the presence of relatives.

Note: Article V Melby, Univ Ulster, Coleraine BT52 1SA, Londonderry, North Ireland

Keyword(s): awareness; communication; intensive care; unconscious patients; INTRACRANIAL-PRESSURE; COMATOSE PATIENTS


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