Who said dialogue conversations are easy? The communication between communication vulnerable people and health-care professionals: A qualitative study

Steffy E. A. Stans*, Ruth J. P. Dalemans, Uta R. Roentgen, Hester W. H. Smeets, Anna J. H. M. Beurskens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: To gain insight into how communication vulnerable people and health-care professionals experience the communication in dialogue conversations, and how they adjust their conversation using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) or other communication strategies. Methods: Communication vulnerable clients and health-care professionals in a long-term care institution were observed during a dialogue conversation (n = 11) and subsequently interviewed (n = 22) about their experiences with the conversation. The clients had various communication difficulties due to different underlying aetiologies, such as acquired brain injury or learning disorder. Results from the observations and interviews were analysed using conventional content analysis. Results: Seven key themes emerged regarding the experiences of clients and professionals: clients blame themselves for miscommunications; the relevance of both parties preparing the conversation; a quiet and familiar environment benefitting communication; giving clients enough time; the importance and complexity of nonverbal communication; the need to tailor communication to the client; prejudices and inexperience regarding AAC. The observations showed that some professionals had difficulties using appropriate communication strategies and all professionals relied mostly on verbal or nonverbal communication strategies. Conclusion: Professionals were aware of the importance of preparation, sufficient time, a suitable environment and considering nonverbal communication in dialogue conversations. However, they struggled with adequate use of communication strategies, such as verbal communication and AAC. There is a lack of knowledge about AAC, and professionals and clients need to be informed about the potential of AAC and how this can help them achieve equal participation in dialogue conversations in addition to other communication strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)848-857
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • communication strategies
  • communication vulnerable people
  • dialogue conversations
  • long-term care
  • patient-provider communication
  • qualitative research
  • AAC


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