• aphasia;
  • communication disability;
  • conversational analysis;
  • dysarthria;
  • nurse–patient interaction;
  • nursing;
  • stroke


Title.  The use of conversational analysis: nurse–patient interaction in communication disability after stroke.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to explore how nursing staff and patients with aphasia or dysarthria communicate with each other in natural interactions on a specialist stroke ward.

Background.  Nursing staff often talk with patients in a functional manner, using minimal social or affective communication. Little nursing research has been carried out with patients who have communication difficulties. Conversational analysis, used in other healthcare settings, is a way to explore these interactions in depth in order to gain further understanding of the communication process.

Method.  An observational study was carried out in 2005 and the data were 35·5 hours of videotape recording and field notes with 14 nursing staff and five patients with aphasia or dysarthria. The recordings were analysed using conversation analysis.

Findings.  Nursing staff controlled the conversations by controlling the topic and flow of conversations, creating asymmetry in all interactions. Patients had very little input because of taking short turns and responding to closed questions. These behaviours are related to the institutional context in which they occur.

Conclusion.  In rehabilitation, the focus for interaction may be thought to be patient goals, worries or plans for the future, but in this study nursing staff controlled the conversations around nursing tasks. This may be because they do not have the confidence to hold conversations with people with communication problems. Nursing staff need to receive training to reinforce communication rehabilitation programmes and to engage more fully with patients in their care, but also that a wider institutional culture of partnership is developed on stroke wards.