Critical care nurses’ experiences of communication- vulnerable patients in the intensive care unit and the influence on rendering compassionate care

Main Article Content

A Kuyler
T Heyns
E Jonhston


Background. Interventions administered to critically ill patients, including mechanical ventilation, sedation or other treatments may hinder communication between patients and nurses. These communication challenges may affect critical care nurses’ ability to provide compassionate, person-centred care.

Objective. To identify nurses’ experiences with patients who are communication-vulnerable in the intensive care unit and how they affect nurses’ ability to offer compassionate care.

Method. This qualitative explorative descriptive study involved nurses who worked in intensive care units from four private hospitals in Gauteng, South Africa. Focus groups were conducted with 30 critical care nurses in groups of two to six participants each. Thematic analysis was used to identify themes.

Results. Five main themes were identified based on nurses’ reports of their experiences with critically ill patients who experience communication difficulties and their impact on rendering compassionate care. Themes were deductively identified based on the social purposes of communication categories. Participants indicated that communication-vulnerable patients influence their ability to provide compassionate care. Generally, the physical, emotional, social and communication difficulties of assisting communication-vulnerable patients caused nurses to feel frustrated and negative towards their work environment, which added to their work stress and sometimes resulted in compassion fatigue.

Conclusion. The study shows that various factors could impact the nurses’ ability to provide compassionate care and that they require support to provide person-centred care. These factors can include the physical environment, the patient’s alertness and awareness and institutional barriers. To support nurses in providing compassionate care, communication partner training may be warranted.

Article Details

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Critical care nurses’ experiences of communication- vulnerable patients in the intensive care unit and the influence on rendering compassionate care. (2024). Southern African Journal of Critical Care, 40(1).
Research Articles

How to Cite

Critical care nurses’ experiences of communication- vulnerable patients in the intensive care unit and the influence on rendering compassionate care. (2024). Southern African Journal of Critical Care, 40(1).


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