Communication skills of nurses during interactions with simulated cancer patients

J Adv Nurs. 2001 Jun;34(6):772-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.2001.01807.x.


Aim: In this paper the balance of affective and instrumental communication employed by nurses during the admission interview with recently diagnosed cancer patients was investigated.

Rationale: The balance of affective and instrumental communication employed by nurses appears to be important, especially during the admission interview with cancer patients.

Methods: For this purpose, admission interviews between 53 ward nurses and simulated cancer patients were videotaped and analysed using the Roter Interaction Analysis system, in which a distinction is made between instrumental and affective communication.

Results: The results reveal that more than 60% of nurses' utterances were of an instrumental nature. Affective communication occurred, but was more related to global affect ratings like giving agreements and paraphrases than to discussing and exploring actively patients feelings by showing empathy, showing concern and optimism.

Conclusion: In future, nurses should be systematically provided with (continuing) training programmes, in which they learn how to communicate effectively in relation to patients' emotions and feelings, and how to integrate emotional care with practical and medical tasks.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Netherlands
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Patient Admission
  • Patient Simulation
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Videotape Recording