Beyond hearing: Nurses' active empathetic listening behaviors from the voice of the patient



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The purpose of this study was to distinguish between effective and ineffective nurse active empathetic listening (AEL) behaviors as perceived by adult inpatients from an acute care hospital. Nurse communication and more specifically, nurse listening is at the core of nurse-patient interaction and influences quality, safety, and patient experience. Nurse listening from the patient’s perspective is poorly understood with a large gap in nursing science. A non-experimental two-group comparison descriptive study was conducted to determine if there was a difference in AEL behaviors as perceived by patients for nurses who listened (n=194) and those who did not (n=50). The two groups were identified based on the response to an initial filter question. A total of 244 medical and surgical patients responded to survey instruments (biographical data form; AEL survey) sent either to their home address or via email at a minimum of 15 days post discharge from a large acute care facility. No statistical difference was found between the demographics of the two groups. An independent t-test (α=.05) revealed a statistically significant difference in the two groups perception of listening behaviors for those who listened and those who did not based on total score, subscales (sensing, processing, and responding) and each of 11 AEL items. The AEL behavior most frequently identified by all participants as most important to them as a patient was “My nurses understood how I felt.” The Cronbach’s alpha calculated for the AEL scale’s total score and subscales exhibited strong reliability. In conclusion, the findings of this study begin to narrow the gap in nursing science related to nurse listening behaviors from the perspective of the patient. Through a better understanding of nurse listening, practice changes can be implemented to impact quality, safety, and the patient experience.



Communication, Listening