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Primary care nurses who convey warmth and caring enhance patient satisfaction with care

Research Activities, October 2009

Primary care nurses who exude warmth, positivity, energy, and capability through use of body language, gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice enhance patient satisfaction with care, concludes a new study. University of California researchers videotaped the primary care visits of 81 nursing staff with 235 patients to assess nurses' nonverbal visual and speech behaviors and their impact on patient and nurse postvisit satisfaction, which they obtained in a postvisit questionnaire.

Affective behaviors were expressed more strongly through vocal communication, and instrumental behaviors (conveying medical information or managing tasks) were revealed more strongly by visual clues. Characteristics of caring, warmth, and supportiveness appeared to contribute to patients' satisfaction with nursing staff members' capability and personableness. Not surprisingly, patients were less satisfied with nurses' negativity and hurrying. This may reflect the pressures of limited time in medical visits and could result from staffing levels in primary care, note the researchers.

Nursing staff members' own satisfaction with the visit was related to the affective nonverbal and verbal behavior of their patients. Pleasantness and involvement from a patient correlated substantially with nursing staff behavior that was caring/sensitive, professional, and less hurried. In this study, more positive vocal and visual behaviors by one were met by more positive communication from the other. The researchers suggest that health care providers may need time to develop rapport with their patients and, ultimately, effective communication may influence patients' decisions to adhere to their recommended regimens. The study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10922).

See "Affective and instrumental communication in primary care interactions: Predicting the satisfaction of nursing staff and patients," by Kelly B. Haskard, Ph.D., M. Robin DiMatteo, Ph.D., and John Heritage, Ph.D., in Health Communication 24, pp. 21-32, 2009.

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Page last reviewed October 2009
Internet Citation: Primary care nurses who convey warmth and caring enhance patient satisfaction with care: Research Activities, October 2009. October 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.