Nurse-patient communication within the context of non-sedated mechanical ventilation: A hermeneutic-phenomenological study

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AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To explore non-sedated mechanically ventilated patients' communication with nurses in the intensive care unit.

BACKGROUND: Mechanically ventilated patients are temporarily voiceless, making interpersonal communication complex. Both nurses and patients find communication challenging and may experience negative emotions when communication fails. In Nordic countries, sedation protocols have changed to light/non-sedation, resulting in more patients being conscious and more clinical practitioners experiencing communication difficulties.

DESIGN: The study was qualitative with a phenomenological-hermeneutic approach. Data were collected at two intensive care units in Denmark from January to April 2015.

METHODS: Data collection consisted of interviews with patients, focus group interviews with nurses and field observations concerning nurse-patient communication. Data were analysed as one collective body of data using Ricoeur's theory of interpretation.

FINDINGS: The main theme showed that communication is a movement between the two opposite feelings of comprehension and frustration. Sub-themes showed (1) the dynamics of power change when the patient is voiceless; (2) consciousness and voicelessness make caring difficult; and (3) the process of interpreting and structuring communication is situational.

CONCLUSION: These findings are important in nursing care and provide perspectives on the shift from communication towards comprehension and, thus, away from frustration. A non-sedation protocol is a major change in clinical practice in relation to communication. It requires a new way of thinking where communication becomes an integrated part of care, and the nurse has to be constantly alert and adjust his or her communication strategies to the patient's changing needs and communication ability.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Some nursing interventions may optimize communication: (1) systematic assessment of patients' communication; (2) education of nurses in Augmentative and Alternative Communication; (3) using communication tools when possible; and (4) securing time, continuity, empathy and patience in nursing care.

TidsskriftNursing in Critical Care
Sider (fra-til)88-94
Antal sider7
StatusUdgivet - 1 mar. 2018

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