Original Research

Communication experiences of healthcare students whilst managing adults with communication disorders

Vrinda Rathiram, Lauren O. Neilson, Azraa Syed Kassim, Winnie T. Mokone, Caitlin C. Green
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 69, No 1 | a870 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v69i1.870 | © 2022 Vrinda Rathiram, Lauren O. Neilson, Azraa Syed Kassim, Winnie T. Mokone, Caitlin C. Green | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 November 2021 | Published: 31 May 2022

About the author(s)

Vrinda Rathiram, Department of Speech-Language Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Lauren O. Neilson, Department of Speech-Language Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Azraa Syed Kassim, Department of Speech-Language Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Winnie T. Mokone, Department of Speech-Language Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Caitlin C. Green, Department of Speech-Language Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Research has found that people with communication disabilities are three times more likely to encounter medical mishaps. Almost a third of patients with speech-language therapy (SLT) diagnoses have other medical conditions across more than one of the burden of disease categories. Fifty per cent of these patients present with communication disorders. Student healthcare curriculums focus on patient dynamics and field-specific diversities. It does not often include the skills and knowledge required to effectively communicate and treat those with communication disorders.

Objectives: This study aims to describe the communication challenges and strategies employed by a group of final year Nursing, Medicine, Dietetics and Human Nutrition, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy students when managing adults with communication disorders.

Method: A qualitative, phenomenological study design was used. Questionnaires were electronically distributed, and results were analysed thematically.

Results: The most significant challenges whilst managing adults with communication disorders were patients’ receptive and expressive language difficulties. Further challenges included lack of knowledge surrounding communication disorders, lack of training in the use of appropriate communicative assistive devices, factors within the physical environment and gaps in students’ clinical performance. Strategies used to facilitate communication included caregiver assistance, gestures and written language.

Conclusion: This study revealed that there is a need to develop healthcare students’ skills in managing adults with communication disorders. This is because of the challenges faced and inefficiency of the strategies used. Future research should focus on determining solutions for improved communication with adults with communication disorders. The study highlights the need for further education and training to address students’ communication needs with patients.


Keywords

communication experiences; healthcare students; adults; communication disorders; challenges; strategies

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