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Nurses’ perspectives about communication with patients in an intensive care setting using a communication board: A pilot study

Martelize Gropp
Ensa Johnson
Juan Bornman
Rajinder Koul


Background: Communication in the intensive care setting (ICS) is critical for both the patient and the medical staff to provide efficient care and thus alleviate possible patient adverse effects. Persons with complex communication needs are particularly vulnerable in ICSs and therefore require additional communication support.

Aim: This study focused on the perspectives of nurses about communication with patients with communication needs in ICSs using paper-based communication boards, namely the translated Vidatak EZ Board, before and after a training session.

Setting: A 1650-bed public hospital with a 26-bed ICS in a semi-urban, low socio-economic area in South Africa served as the research setting.

Methods: A quasi-experimental pre-test post-test group design with withdrawal and a control group was used. Data were gathered using a custom-designed questionnaire completed by ICS nurse participants recruited from a public hospital.

Results: Responses of some nurses did not change in post-test 1, but their responses did change in post-test 2. Some of the nurses’ perspectives changed, as expected from the pre-test to post-test 1. Nurses recommended specific adaptations to the communication board.

Conclusions: Most nurses agreed that communication is crucial in ICSs and that a communication board can be implemented; however, limited success was observed implementing the board following a short training. The inter-professional collaboration between nurses and speech-language therapists to provide optimal health care to patients in ICS is emphasised.

Keywords: augmentative and alternative communication; communication board; intensive care setting; nurses; patients; vulnerable communicators.