Engaging people experiencing communication disability in stroke rehabilitation: A qualitative study
Bright, FAS; Kayes, NM; McPherson, KM; Worrall, LE
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BACKGROUND: Engagement is commonly considered important in stroke rehabilitation, with some arguing it is essential for positive patient outcomes. An emerging body of research indicates the practitioner influences engagement through their ways of relating, communicating and working with the patient. People experiencing communication disability may face particular challenges with engagement as a practitioner's communication and interactional patterns may limit their ability to engage. AIMS: To understand how rehabilitation practitioners worked to engage people experiencing communication disability throughout the course of rehabilitation. METHODS & PROCEDURES: A qualitative study using the Voice Centred Relational Approach. Longitudinal observational and interview data were gathered from 28 practitioners and three people experiencing communication disability in inpatient and community stroke rehabilitation services. Data were analyzed using the Listening Guide. OUTCOMES & RESULTS: Engagement was a relational practice on the part of the rehabilitation practitioner. It was underpinned by a relational philosophy and characterized by three core processes: embedding relational work throughout rehabilitation; getting to know the patient and working in ways valued by the patient; and communicating using relational dialogue and supported conversation. Practitioners wove these together with their technical, disciplinary-based work and rehabilitation tasks. CONCLUSIONS & IMPLICATIONS: Patient engagement was constructed through relationships and strongly influenced by the practitioners' way of thinking about and enacting practice, challenging the idea that engagement is solely an intrinsic patient state and behaviour. The findings raise questions about which aspects of rehabilitation work and communication are most valuable when working to engage people experiencing communication disability. Viewing engagement as a relational practice and understanding the different ways this is enacted may support practitioners to reflect on their understandings of engagement, their patient's engagement, their ways of working, and the frames and philosophies that surround and influence their practice.