Relational conversation as method for creating partnerships: pilot study

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This paper reports a pilot study testing the intervention, Self-Care TALK, whose aim was to describe communication skills used by an advanced practice nurse to create partnerships with caregivers. The communication process and examples of skills used in creating partnerships are described.


Decades of exploring nurse–client relationships provide a knowledge base for describing a structure and process for building partnerships. Self-Care TALK functions as a vehicle for an education and support partnership. Self-Care TALK, a theory-derived intervention, is based on the Self-Care for Health Promotion in Aging model. Implementation of the intervention was evaluated in a pilot study in 2003, with older spouse caregivers of persons with early dementia.


Pilot testing of Self-Care TALK followed Lichstein's criteria of tracking three phases of intervention: delivery, receipt and enactment. Henson's communication elements for establishing partnership relationships provided a guide for advanced practice nurse communication. Self-Care TALK was delivered during six phone conversations with caregivers for a total of 36 phone conversations. All phone conversations were audiotape recorded. Field notes were taken during each conversation. Data analysis followed a qualitative descriptive process of comparative analysis in which communication skills were compared across conversations. Categories of skills were named based on communication elements that dominated the category. Communication skills were compared to literature addressing communication and nurse–client partnerships.


Communication examples described the structure for interaction (Self-Care TALK protocol), process of interaction (relational conversation) and caregiver identified outcomes (intentions to enact self-care).


Conversations to create partnerships depended on one theme: language that supported relational conversation. Four communication skills illustrated the how of relational conversation: listening with intent, affirming emotions, creating relational images, and planning enactment.

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