Nonverbal communication between registered nurses and patients during chronic disease management consultations: Observations from general practice

Sharon James, Jane Desborough, Susan McInnes, Elizabeth J. Halcomb

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Aims and objectives: This study explores nonverbal communication behaviours between general practice nurses and patients during chronic disease consultations. Background: Nonverbal communication is an important aspect of nurse–patient lifestyle risk reduction conversations. Despite the growing role of general practice nurses in lifestyle risk modification when managing chronic disease, few studies have investigated how this communication occurs. Design: Observational study within a concurrent mixed methods project. Methods: Thirty-six consultations by 14 general practice nurses were video-recorded between August 2017 and March 2018. Video analysis used the Nonverbal Accommodation Analysis System. The STROBE checklist was used to guide this paper. Results: Joint convergence of nurse–patient behaviours such as laughing, smiling and eye contact was most common (44%; n = 157). Patient–nurse eye contact time decreased significantly across the consultation, while nurse gesturing increased significantly. No significant relationship between consultation length and convergent to divergent behaviour categorisation or nurse–computer use across the consultation was found. Conclusions: The high levels of convergent behaviours are promising for person-centred care. However, scope exists to enhance nonverbal interactions around lifestyle risk reduction. Supporting nurses with skills and improved environments for lifestyle risk communication has potential to improve therapeutic relationships and patient outcomes. Relevance to clinical practice: These results indicate that nurses support patients through nonverbal interactions during conversations of lifestyle risk reduction. However, there are opportunities to improve this practice for future interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2378-2387
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number13-14
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • general practice
  • nonverbal communication
  • nurse
  • nurse–patient interaction
  • observational research
  • patient relations
  • primary care

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