Nurse-patient communication: The influence of gender, time, and context

Date of Completion

January 1999


Health Sciences, Mental Health|Psychology, Social|Health Sciences, Nursing




Nurse-patient communication, an essential component of nurses' work, is most effective when structured by the nurse to provide opportunities for the patient's voice to be heard. A symmetrical nurse-patient interaction maximizes the voice of the patient by de-emphasizing the hierarchical context between the nurse and patient, and encouraging the patient's expression of sociopsychological issues. This study examined three factors that can influence symmetry in nurse-patient interactions: gender, time, and context. ^ Interactions of twenty nurse-patient gendered-pairings from two community hospitals were tape recorded as the nurses performed typical care routines throughout one shift. The recorded interactions were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using a dual methodological approach. First, the data was examined utilizing a traditional speech features analysis to count symmetrical and asymmetrical speech features. This quantitative method was enhanced by a qualitative speech features analysis in which context was considered. For the second examination of the data, discourse analysis was used. ^ The results of the study are important because they underscore the significance of symmetry in nurse-patient interactions. Findings revealed symmetry and asymmetry in nurse-patient interactions, some of which were inconsistent with prior empirical work on communication and gender. The results especially highlight a need to enhance nurses' abilities to listen to what patients have to say. ^