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Exploring dietitians’ verbal and nonverbal communication skills for effective dietitian–patient communication

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Abstract:

Abstract Background 

Little is known about how dietitians conduct their communication with individual patients in the process of nutrition education. To study this issue, both practitioners’ and patients’ perceptions of dietitians’ skills were examined in the first phase of a two-phase study. The resulting narratives were used to develop a questionnaire to survey Australian dietitians involved in clinical practice. Methods 

A purposive sample of dietitians in one state (n = 46; 12%), working in hospital, community or private practice, and a quota of their adult patients (n = 34), were interviewed. In the second stage, Australian dietitians (n = 258; 16%) responded to a national survey in 2006, which asked about educational strategies, communication skills, and professional attributes. Descriptive statistics were used to compare response distributions, and nonparametric statistics were used to examine between-group relationships. Criterion for item acceptance was established as ≥70% agreement. Triangulation of results revealed strong agreement between data sources. Results 

Four main communication competencies were established: interpersonal communication skill, nonverbal communication, professional values, and counselling skill. There was no significant difference in practice by work category or experience. The communication competencies, together with 26 accompanying skills, are described. Conclusion 

An understanding of this guide to communication practice might help enhance dietitian–patient relations.

Keywords: Australia; dietetic education; non-verbal professional communication; nutrition education; professional communication

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-277X.2008.00883.x

Publication date: 2008-10-01

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