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Communication Skills in Palliative Care

Over the past few decades, research has shown that good communication is central to the interactions between health-care professionals and people with terminal illnesses. Research suggests that good communication can not only positively affect the psychological status and quality of life of people with such illnesses, but also assist in the resolution of physical symptoms (Faulkner & Maguire 1994; Maguire 1999; Stewart 1995).

This chapter focuses on the importance of communication skills as a central aspect of the nursing assessment and management of patients and families receiving palliative care. As the quotation at the beginning of the chapter suggests, additional specific training is required if therapeutic outcomes are to be optimised. Such communication skills are often taken for granted. The self-evaluation questionnaire illustrated in Figure 3.1 (below) is a useful means of assessing personal skills in this area.

Contents include

  • Introduction
  • Therapeutic Communication
  • Effects of poor communications on patient outcomes
  • Communication as an effective tool
  • Barriers to effective communication
    • Barriers related to patients
      • Reluctance to disclose concerns
      • Individual preferences for modes of communication
      • Cross-cultural issues affecting communication
    • Barriers to health professionals
      • Values, attitudes, and beliefs
      • Skills deficits
  • Facilitating therapeutic communication
    • Awareness of concerns
    • Use of communication skills
  • Implications for nursing practice
    • Therapeutic communication and assessment skills
    • Strategies and training for improving skills in communication
    • Organisation and system issues
    • Clinical supervision
    • Self-awareness, attitudes, and beliefs
    • Sample plan for improving communication skills
  • Conclusion
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Author / Editor Biographies

Annabel has been a registered psychologist for five years, and completed an MA in clinical psychology in 2001. Annabel is currently employed as a psychologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, Melbourne (Victoria, Australia), as coordinator of patient support programs in which she is responsible for the development and management of psychosocial supportive care programs for groups, patients and families. Annabel also consults as a psychologist to individual patients and families through the psycho-oncology clinic at Peter MacCallum. Annabel's research and clinical interests focus on sta...
Kathleen has been a lecturer in nursing since 1992 and is now a member of staff of the La Trobe University and Austin & Repatriation Clinical School, Melbourne (Victoria, Australia). Kathleen's experience in cancer nursing began in 1981 and she has since held management and staff development positions within this specialty. Her work in community-based cancer care led to an interest in home-based palliative care. Kathleen is on the Committee of Management of the Banksia Palliative Care Service, a large domiciliary service in metropolitan Melbourne. She also serves on the executive of the Cancer...

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