Experiences of Paramedics when dealing with patients with communication difficulties
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Communication disorders (CD) can occur during childbirth or adulthood. Difficulties often arise from trauma to the brain, and results in cognitive and motor deficits. Consequences of this damage can result in speech and/ or language difficulties. Many disabilities or disorders often have co-occurring CD, causing further implications during medical provision. Previous research has shown dissatisfaction with the level of medical attention provided among people with CD. A lack of knowledge and confidence with working with people with CD can cause breakdown in communication between patients and staff, leaving healthcare professionals feeling uncomfortable. Other barriers that affect quality of patient-care include time, staff attitudes and lack of training. The current study focuses on the experiences and perspectives of Paramedics; which has previously received no consideration. Using thematic analysis, the study evaluated five semi-structured interviews of paramedics, exploring their knowledge and experience of dealing with patients with CD. The results demonstrated four main themes: ‘Confidence’, ‘Strategies to facilitate communication’, ‘Barriers to effective communication’, and ‘Training’. It was concluded that the majority of participants lacked confidence in their abilities to deal with patients with CD, despite their level of experience. However, all participants were able to facilitate interactions with the patients using alternative means of communication; such as writing, gesture and visual aids. Time acted as both a barrier and facilitator to effective communication; when patients were in a non-critical state, paramedics can use as much time as is necessary to gain sufficient information. Findings also deliberated the need for specific training around CD and strategies to facilitate patient-centred care.
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