• nurse-patient interaction;
  • acute hospital care;
  • technology;
  • conversation analysis


Strongly worded directives regarding the need for increased patient participation during nursing interaction with patients have recently appeared in a range of ‘best-practice’ documents. This paper focuses on one area of nurse-patient communication, the hospital admission interview, which has been put forward as an ideal arena for increased patient participation. It uses data from a total of 27 admission interviews, extensive periods of participant observation and analysis of nursing records to examine how hospital admission interviews are performed by nurses and patients. Analysis shows that topics discussed during admission closely follow the layout of the admission document which nurses complete during the interview. Whilst it is tempting to describe the admission document as a ‘super technological power’ in influencing the interaction and restricting patient participation, this analysis attempts a more rounded reading of the data. Findings demonstrate that, whilst opportunities for patient participation were rare, admission interviews are complex interactional episodes that often belie simplistic or prescriptive guidance regarding interaction between nurses and patients. In particular, issue is taken with the lack of contextual and conceptual clarity with which best-practice guidelines are written.