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Nurses’ perspectives toward patient communication using a low technology communication board in an ICU.

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Communication in the ICU is vitally important for both the patient and for the medical staff involved in order to provide efficient care and to alleviate possible adverse effects. Persons who have complex communication needs (CNN) are particularly vulnerable in ICU and require additional communication support.

Aim: To determine the perspectives of nurses toward communication with patients in ICU using a low technology AAC device, namely the translated Vidatak EZ communication board, before and after training in the implementation of the device.

Method: A quasi-experimental group design with withdrawal including a control group was used. A Pre-test, before training nurses who worked in an ICU on how to implement a communication device, a Post-test 1 after a two week implementation, and Post-test 2 after a two week withdrawal was done.

Results: Using speech to communicate with patients increased, but the amount of communication in a 12 hour shift decreased between the pre- and post-tests for both groups. Patient characteristics such as oral intubation, tracheostomy and sedation influence communication. Nurses also realized the importance of communication with patients in the ICU, using more communication strategies after training. However, a lack of knowledge regarding AAC strategies and the importance thereof in the ICU was noted.

Conclusion: Even though AAC training with a low technology communication board was done, limited success was observed implementing the board. Nurses agreed that communication is crucial in ICU and a communication board can be implemented, but they recommended specific adaptations to the communication board.


Martelize Gropp    
Centre of Alternative and Augmentative Communication
South Africa

Prof. Juan Bornman    
Centre of Alternative and Augmentative Communication
South Africa

Dr. Ensa Johnson    
Centre of Alternative and Augmentative Communication
South Africa


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