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Communication skills training enhances nurses' ability to respond with empathy to parents' emotions in a neonatal intensive care unit

Journal article
Authors Kristina Bry
M. Bry
Elisabet Hentz
Håkan L. Karlsson
Hanna Kyllonen
Malin Lundkvist
Helena Wigert
Published in Acta Paediatrica
Volume 105
Issue 4
Pages 397-406
ISSN 0803-5253
Publication year 2016
Published at Institute of Health and Care Sciences
Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Pediatrics
Pages 397-406
Language en
Keywords Communication skills, Neonatal intensive care, Neonatal nursing, Newborn, Training, ADVANCED CANCER, ONCOLOGISTS, EXPRESSIONS, MEDICINE, FAMILY, TRIAL, NICU, KEY
Subject categories Nursing, Pediatrics


AimWe quantitatively analysed the effect of a course in communication on the content of nurse-parent encounters and the ability of nurses to respond to the empathic needs of parents in a level III neonatal intensive care unit. MethodsWe evaluated 36 and 45 nurse-parent encounters audio recorded before and after 13 neonatal nurses attended a communication course. The number of empathic opportunities, the nurses' responses to these and the ways they involved parents in their infants' care were studied. ResultsBoth before and after the course, the nurses talked more than the parents during the conversations. This nurse-centredness decreased after the course. The use of empathic or exploring responses to empathic opportunities increased from 19.9 9.0% to 53.8 +/- 8.9% (p = 0.027), whereas ignoring the feelings of the parents or giving inadequate advice decreased from 63.0 +/- 10.0% to 27.5 +/- 8.4% (p = 0.043) after the course. Use of statements expressing caring for the parents and encouragement for parents to participate in the care of their infant increased after the course (p = 0.0034 and p = 0.043, respectively). The nurses felt the course was very useful for their profession. ConclusionA course in communication techniques improved nurses' ability to respond to parents' feelings with empathy.

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