Kelly J. Swauger Cummings, RN, PhD, NEA-BC


Reconstructing Nurses’ Relationships with Older Patients

This project explores how nurses can communicate with older patients such that independence, a sense of increased control, and competency are promoted. Further, focus is on how independence, control, and competency improve health and well-being (both key functions of the nursing profession). Effective, person centered communication can lead to care delivery where people are assessed and treated appropriately and where people understand information that is presented to them and how that information impacts decisions. My hope is that nursing communication with older patients can be grounded in I-Thou relationships (Buber, 1958) where mutuality and honesty prevail rather than I-It where the person is used as an object in need. If older patients feel valued and honored, nurses can open the door to healing, inspiration, and self-determination. Using an appreciative approach, nurses and patients are interviewed and observed in order to understand the qualities and characteristics of their communication and the impact of that communication on participants. Findings from this research can influence ways of thinking in the nursing community so that the dominant discourse will become one of respect and dignity instead of paternalism and control.