Communication in the ICU (summary)


What was the aim of the study? This study described the thoughts of nurses who worked in the ICU about a programme in which they took part to increase their knowledge about how to communicate with patients who cannot speak.

Why was the paper written? The researchers ran a programme to teach ICU nurses about communication skills and AAC strategies that they could use with patients who do not speak. The researchers wanted to find out what the nurses thought about the programme and whether they used any of the information that they had learned.

What did the authors do? The authors ran focus groups with ICU nurses. Twenty-six nurses participated in the training programme, and six of these nurses gave their feedback in small group settings.

What did they find? Nurses reported many positive things about their learning experience, but there were some negative aspects as well. Some nurses thought communication was very important for patients on the ICU, but other nurses thought it had low priority. Nurses thought that patients often tried to communicate about their immediate needs, but messages about more personal topics were often ignored.

Nurses found many benefits to learning about communication. Nurses thought that they were less frustrated and stressed and more patient when communicating in the ICU. They also thought that there were benefits for patients, such as making a quicker recovery. Nurses were not able to use everything they learned in their jobs because of time constraints. Some AAC strategies were not appropriate for the ICU, because many patients have cognitive impairments or motor difficulties that mean they cannot use certain communication aids.

Nurses found that part of the programme was helpful in reminding them about natural strategies such as making eye contact, speaking slowly and using voice inflection. They thought these strategies were very effective and used them frequently. Some nurses found the programme so beneficial that they began to incorporate information about patient communication into medical reports and promoted communication strategies in their workplace.

Cautions: This study took place in two hospital units in the USA, and there were only a small number of nurses who took part in the programme.

Conclusions: Nurses provided positive feedback about the programme and the AAC strategies that they learned. Overall, they increased their skills and confidence in communicating to patients who cannot speak.

Things you may want to look into:

Information on acquired disorders

Family members' AAC communication strategies in the ICU

Added to site August 2013