When interactions are interruptions: An ethnographic study of information-sharing by speech and language therapists and nurses on stroke units
Purpose: To explore how the information-sharing context influences how speech and language therapy (SLT) and nursing staff interact on stroke units and what they discuss. Methods: Ethnographic methodology was used, with data collected during 40 weeks of fieldwork across three inner city stroke units in the UK. Data comprised field notes collected during 357 h of participant observation and 43 interviews. Interviews were conducted with 14 SLTs, 1 SLT assistant, 24 registered nurses and 4 nursing assistants. Results: This paper is focused on informal information-sharing. SLTs and nurses had different experiences of time and space (the temporal-spatial context) with respect to ward presence and proximity to patients, influencing how they interacted, the content of their talk and their relationships. Most interactions had the quality of interruptions, in which SLTs seized moments in between nursing tasks. Conditions were less suited to sharing information about communication than swallowing and SLTs felt more allied to other therapists than nurses. Conclusion: The temporal-spatial context impeded information-sharing, particularly about patients’ communication needs. Consideration should be given to developing relationships between SLTs and nurses as key partners for patient care and raising the profile of communication information in ways that are relevant and useful to nursing work.Implications for rehabilitation Strategic waiting for opportunities to interrupt nurses and gain their attention is central to how speech and language therapists manage their need to share information informally with nurses. The small “windows in time” available for interaction influence information-sharing, with a limiting effect on information about patients’ communication. There is potential to improve information-sharing between speech and language therapists and nurses by considering how the relevance of information for patient care could be made clearer.