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Nurse-Patient Communication in Follow-up Consultations After Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

de Leeuw, Jacqueline MSc, RN; Prins, Judith B. PhD; Uitterhoeve, Ruud PhD; Merkx, Matthias A. W. MD, PhD, DMD; Marres, Henri A. M. MD, PhD; Achterberg, Theo van PhD

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e318288d3f3
Articles: Online Only

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.

Author Affiliations: Departments of ORL and Head and Neck Surgery (Ms de Leeuw and Dr Marres), Medical Psychology (Dr Prins), Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (Dr Merkx), and Nursing Science, IQ Healthcare (Dr van Achterberg), Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen; and HZ University of Applied Sciences, Vlissingen (Dr Uitterhoeve), the Netherlands.

This study was supported by the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Correspondence: Jacqueline de Leeuw, MSc, Department of ORL and Head and Neck Surgery, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB, Nijmegen, the Netherlands ( j,

Accepted for publication December 31, 2012.

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins