• nurse–patient interaction;
  • elderly care;
  • observation study

Non-verbal behaviour in nurse–elderly patient communication¶This study explores the occurrence of non-verbal communication in nurse–elderly patient interaction in two different care settings: home nursing and a home for the elderly. In a sample of 181 nursing encounters involving 47 nurses a study was made of videotaped nurse–patient communication. Six non-verbal behaviours were observed: patient-directed eyegaze, affirmative head nodding, smiling, forward leaning, affective touch and instrumental touch. With the exception of instrumental touch these non-verbal behaviours are important in establishing a good relationship with the patient. To study the relationship between non-verbal and verbal communication, verbal communication was observed using an adapted version of Roter's Interaction Analysis System, which distinguishes socio-emotional and task-related communication. Data were analysed in hierarchical linear models. The results demonstrated that nurses use mainly eyegaze, head nodding and smiling to establish a good relation with their patients. The use of affective touch is mainly attributable to nurses' personal style. Compared to nurses in the community, nurses in the home for the elderly more often display non-verbal behaviours such as patient-directed gaze and affective touch.