Communication differences when patients and caregivers are seen separately or together

Catherine Swetenham, Jennifer Tieman, Phyllis Butow, David Currow

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Southern Adelaide Palliative Care Services introduced a nurse-led early introduction to a palliative care clinic in 2011. The clinic offers a thorough psychosocial assessment and the provision of information and an introduction to future care planning. The patients and their caregivers are seen together by the nurse practitioner initially for a physical assessment. They are then seen by a social worker to focus on advanced care planning and assessment of social and emotional factors. After the social work visit, the patient and caregiver are separated, and the patient sees the psychosocial nurse for coping and adjustment to illness and the carer sees the caregiver network facilitator to assess their informal supports to assist in the role of community-based caregiving. The pilot study looks at the nature of communication in the clinic where patient and carer are together and compares that to when they are separated. Methods: A total of 33 patients and their caregivers agreed for their coversations to be tape recorded between May and November of 2013. All tape recordings were transcribed verbatim. Ten patient transcripts (n=40) have been coded for quantitative analysis. The codes identify content and function of speech, cues for information and emotion and whether they are responded to by clinicians. Results: Pilot results reveal that caregivers contribute little in the combined clinics and dominate the conversation in the private clinic. Patients, when seen alone, predominantly express emotion related cues, opposed to cues for information. The clinicians focus on their area of specialty, which results in little duplication in this clinic setting. Conclusion: An earlier evaluation of this clinic found that patients and their caregivers appreciate being separated in the clinic setting to have time and privacy to reveal fears and feelings related to end-of-life care. This current study quantifies the patient and caregiver experience and confirms those earlier findings.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)557-563
    Number of pages7
    JournalInternational Journal of Palliative Nursing
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


    • Communication
    • Dyadic communication
    • Family caregiver
    • Outpatient clinic
    • Triadic communication


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