Background: Adequate provider-patient communication is viewed as an important aspect of good quality (cancer) care, supports patients’ stress control, and can positively influence health outcomes.
Objective: The objective of this study was to describe nurse-patient communication in 2 consecutive follow-up consultations after head and neck cancer, with or without a partner present.
Methods: This was a descriptive observational study of 17 video-recorded, coded, and analyzed consultations of 10 head and neck cancer patients and 6 partners.
Results: Nurses adequately responded to about 25% of patients’ and partners’ emotional cues. In almost 75%, nurses responded to cues using distancing behaviors. The majority of informational questions of both patients and partners were adequately answered. Comparison of consecutive visits showed small differences for patients’ and partners’ cue-emission and for nurses’ responsive behaviors between visits 1 and 2.
Conclusion: Nurses adequately responded to informational questions from patients and partners. However, they seemed to be less observant of and able to address emotional cues. Communication on nurse-patient-partner interaction deserves further research in a much larger sample and over a longer time period.
Implication for Practice: Nurses’ awareness of the importance of adequate cue responding is vital, as is the choice to “unlearn” the predominant distancing behaviors. The needs and the role of the patients’ partner in consultations and managing consultations require further attention in training and professional practice.