Friends of the Nonverbal Communication Blog, this week we present the paper “Conditions Influencing Effective Nurse Nonverbal Communication With Hospitalized Older Adults in Cameroon”, by Wanko-Keutchafo, E. L.; Kerr, J.; Baloyi, O. B. and Duma, S. E. (2022), in which authors carry out a study in Cameroonian hospitals to know which factors affect the quality of nonverbal communication between elder patients and nurses that are in charge of their care.
Elder adults make up a very significant proportion of the population worldwide, and are often the forgotten ones.
These adults have reached the figure of more than 32 million people in sub-Saharan Africa in 2019 (the context of this article), and are projected to reach 101 million by 2050, which is an increase of 218%.
This rapid growth means that, over time, there will be a greater need for medical care for the elderly, and nurses are expected to interact with these patients more than with any other.
However, patients have a wide range of personal experiences that influence their perceptions, which increase in diversity as they age.
In addition, elder adults may experience auditory deficits, changes in attention and information encoding, which can restrict their interaction, participation and effective communication. All this indicates that good communication skills will be essential in nursing.
As we have said on numerous occasions, communication is the core of human society and sustains community life.
In healthcare settings, effective communication is the foundation of any relationship. It is important for understanding patients’ needs and supporting the improvement of their health and well-being.
Communication, as we already know, has both verbal and nonverbal components and is therefore more complicated than the simple transmission of information.
The nonverbal aspect refers to facial expressions, how we behave in general, the use of touch, space and distances, how we move our body, physical appearance, silences and the tone of our voice… among many other elements.
The factors that influence communication between nurses and patients seem to be divided into those related to the nurse, the patient, the environment, the physical or the psychological aspects.
Authors have identified some within these groups. For example, nurse-related factors could be job dissatisfaction, a high workload or insufficient time. Regarding the environment, we could point out the fact that it is a busy, hectic place. Within the physical factors we could mention the space in the rooms, the noise or the lack of privacy. And in the psychological factors, anxiety, level of self-esteem, disorders, and even religion.
When communication is effective, patients feel taken care of, respected and more able to describe their concerns.
Age discriminatory attitudes, prejudices and stereotypes based on age, such as condescending speech, are also worth investigating.
In this article, authors aim to describe the conditions that influence nurses’ effective nonverbal communication with hospitalized elder adults in the Cameroonian context.
The study was conducted in two public referral and teaching hospitals in Cameroon. Ten female nurses, four students, two managers and one nursing assistant participated, allowing their behavior in dealing with elderly patients to be observed. Data were collected between July 2018 and January 2020.
The findings revealed that the most influential factors were those related to nurses.
It appears that the most determinant ones are beliefs and prejudices, their personality traits, personal experiences, and their love and vocation for their work.
On the other hand, it appears that religious beliefs facilitate positive verbal communication between nurses and patients; however, this is not always the case, as a 2019 study reported that some Muslim patients expected nurses to bow to them when caring for them and, if they did not, they were perceived as insolent.
Nurses’ awareness of their nonverbal behavior is also very important, since the more they seem to be mindful of conveying positive feelings, the more effective they appear to be. This point is, of course, influenced by experience.
It is suggested that, in order to increasingly improve nonverbal communication between nurses and patients, educational programs for health professionals should be created, promoting mainly empathy.
If you want to know more about nonverbal behavior and how it affects personal relationships, visit our Master of Science in Nonverbal and Deceptive Behavior, which you can take in English or Spanish, with special grants for readers of the Nonverbal Communication Blog.