Nurses' communication regarding patients' use of complementary and alternative medicine

Helen Hall, Caragh Brosnan, Jane Frawley, Jon Wardle, Melissa Collins, Matthew Leach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background:: Many people integrate complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) into their health care. Nurses potentially play a significant role in communicating with patients about their CAM utilisation. Aim:: The study aimed to explore whether, how and why nurses working in Australia communicate about patients' CAM use. Methods:: This paper reports on phase one of a mixed methods study. Qualitative data was obtained, via interviews, with nineteen registered nurses who work in a wide variety of clinical environments across all states of Australia. Findings:: Four themes related to nurses' communication with patients about CAM, were developed from the qualitative data; engaging with patients about CAM, communication with doctors about patients' use of CAM, connecting with CAM practitioners and barriers to CAM communication. Discussion:: Despite their positive attitudes, nurses are often not comfortable discussing or documenting patients' CAM use. Furthermore, nurses perceive that patients may be apprehensive about disclosing their use. CAM communication with colleagues is moderated by the workplace culture and the perceived attitude of co-workers. There is very little evidence of nurses referring or collaborating with CAM practitioners. Professional expectation, time restraints and the nurses' lack of relevant CAM knowledge all have a powerful effect on limiting CAM communication. Conclusion:: Communication about patients' use of CAM is imperative to support safe therapeutic decisions. Currently, this is limited in the Australian healthcare workplace. The nursing professional needs to consider introducing basic CAM education and flexible guidelines to enable nurses' to respond appropriately to the patient driven demand for CAM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-294
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Communication
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Complementary therapies
  • Nurse

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