Background: Providing effective communication with patients is an essential aspect of nursing care. Understanding the barriers that inhibit nurse–patient communication can provide an opportunity to eliminate them.
Aim: To investigate nurse–patient and environment-related communication barriers perceived by patients and nurses in Iranian nursing.
Methods: A descriptive survey was carried out in three randomly selected educational hospitals in a large urban city in Iran. Data were collected by questionnaire; the study sample consisted of 61 patients and 75 nurses. Participants were asked to rate the importance of each communication barriers item. Finally, data were analysed using descriptive statistics, and to compare the perceived importance of communication barriers between patients and nurses, item means were calculated and the t-test for independent samples was applied.
Results: Similarities and differences between the two groups were identified. According to nurses' views, ‘heavy nursing workload’, ‘hard nursing tasks’ and ‘lack of welfare facilities for nurses’ were the main communication barriers. From patients' views, ‘unfamiliarity of nurses with dialect’, ‘having contagious diseases’ and ‘sex differences between nurses and patients’ were determined as the main communication barriers. The shared communication barriers were ‘age difference’, ‘social class difference’ and ‘having contagious diseases’.
Conclusion: It can be concluded that nursing managers and healthcare system planners should focus on eliminating or modifying the barriers stated by the two groups, particularly the shared ones. It is suggested that understanding the cultural aspects of nurse–patient communication barriers in various contexts can help nurses.
Limitations: The study relied on self-report by a limited sample of nurses and patients. The responses should now be tested by a larger sample and then by empirical research into actual practice in order to test whether the nurses' and patients' perceived ideas of communication barriers are substantiated.