Hospital staff views on communication in hospital (Children with Cerebral Palsy)

Speech Pathology Australia National Conference 24-27 June 2012

Hospital staff views on communicating with children with cerebral palsy and complex communication needs in hospital: Environmental barriers and solutions to improve communication.

Kathleen Munro (1), Nadeera Seedat (2), Kaely Bastock (3), Bronwyn Hemsley (1,3)

(1) The University of Queensland, (2) Cerebral Palsy League, QLD, (3) The University of Newcastle, Australia

The aims of this focus group study were to investigate the views of hospital staff on (a) the communication needs and methods of children with cerebral palsy (CP) and complex communication needs (CCN) in hospital, (b) their roles in supporting these children, and (c) barriers to and strategies for better communication on the ward. Participants included allied health professionals and nurses who had worked with children with CP and CCN. There was agreement across the data that children with CP and CCN in hospital need to communicate basic needs and preferences for leisure activities. Most participants reported relying upon parents to communicate with the child. Although allied health staff considered parents would be present at most times, nurses reported that this did not always occur. Barriers to the child’s use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems included lack of space at the bedside, lack of a means to store and protect a costly AAC system, and lack of staff confidence and knowledge in how the child communicated outside the hospital. One focus group of nurses reflected that barriers to the use of AAC had been removed in order to enable children to use their own AAC systems. This group reported that simple and complex high technology AAC systems were viable for use in hospital wards if environmental supports are in place. In this paper, barriers to and strategies for better communication in hospital will be presented and policy and practice implications for hospital staff discussed.

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