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Communication Skills for the Health Care Professional: Concepts, Practice, and Evidence, Second Edition

Author(s): Gwen van Servellen, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor Emeritus, School of Nursing, University of California, Los Angeles
  • ISBN-13: 9780763755577
  • Paperback    485 pages      © 2009
Price: $156.95 US List
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Communication Skills for the Health Care Professional is the first text of its kind to address the connection between communication practices and quality patient care outcomes. It provides future and practicing patient caregivers in all specialties and services with basic communication knowledge and skills and is an invaluable resource for those in administrative functions as well. 

The Second Edition is a thorough revision that features five all new chapters covering: communicating with patients with low literacy; health communications and quality care; health communications to enhance behavioral change; the internet and communications between patient and provider; altering systems of care and implications for health care communications. 


  • Provides a psychosocial and physiologic contextual background for understanding sensual development and verbal and nonverbal expression.
  • Teaches communication skills one at a time allowing for contiguous mastery over a set of therapeutic interventions.
  • Includes an extensive glossary of terms and list of references including websites and resources available to enhance student learning.
  • Is accompanied by online instructor resources including an instructor’s manual and PowerPoint lecture slides. 

Listen to the author discuss this text and the importance of communications in the quality of care, here: 
Audio-Digest Foundation Interview with Gwen van Servellen .
New to the Second Edition:

• New chapter on Communicating with Patients with Low Literacy
• Four new chapters on expectations for health care communications, evidence for quality and behavioral change
• All chapters have been revised and updated
• Updated resources
• New tables
• Up-to-date evidence

Upgrade Your Course Materials to the New Edition! Click here to access our easy transition guide. 


Introduction: Managing Care: Implications for Health Care Communications

PART I:   Health Care Communications: Foundations for Understanding Communications in Health Care Settings

Chapter  1:    Health Communications and Quality Care
Quality Care
Operational Definitions of Quality Care
Adverse Drug Events
Treatment Adherence
Trust and Patient Satisfaction
Effective Self-Management
Symptom Severity
Morbidity and Morality
Health Care Utilization

Chapter  2:   Principles of Human Communication                         
Sensory Awareness and Sensory Receptivity                                        
Processing Stimuli and the Brain                                                  
Interpersonal Foundations for Human Communication                          

Chapter  3:   The Nature of Therapeutic Communications            
Therapeutic Communication Defined                                                    
Therapeutic Interviewing Skills                                                             
Avoiding the Traps of Dysfunctional Communication                             

Chapter 4:   Cultural Similarities and Differences and Communication               
Disparities in Health Care and the Role of Provider-Patient Communications
Culture and the Influence of Culture on
Definitions of Minority and Majority                                                     
Cultural Competence—A Developmental Process                                
Understanding Your Own Cultural Programming                                  

PART II.  Professional Skills in Managing Care: Critical Competencies in Therapeutic Communications 

Chapter  5:  The Pervasive Role of Confirmation and Empathy             
Definitions of Empathy and Empathic Response                                    
The Therapeutic Value of Empathy                                                       
The Empathic Process—Steps to Arriving at Empathy and the Capacity for Empathy                                                             
Barriers to Empathy in the Provider-Patient

Chapter 6: Communications That Contribute to Trust and Mistrust of the Providers                                                                                 
Definitions of Trust and Trust-Based Relationship                                 
The Process of Establishing Trust                                                         
Trust and Confirmation: An Important Connection                                

Chapter  7:  The Art and Skillful Use of Questions                       
Therapeutic Use of Questions                                                              
Non-therapeutic Use of Questions                                                       
Types of Question Formats                                                                  
Choice of Question Format and Response Burden                                

Chapter   8:  Therapeutic Use of Silence and Pauses                     
Definitions of Silence                                                                            
In the Absence of Silence                                                                     
Therapeutic Purposes of Silence in the Provider
Patient Relationship                                                                              
Analysis of Silence in Patients’ Responses                                            
Negative Effects of Using Silence                                                         

Chapter  9: The Impact and Limitations of Self-Disclosure           
Definitions of Self-Disclosure                                                               
The Therapeutic Effects of Self-Disclosure                                    
Types of Nontherapeutic Self-Disclosure                                              
Criteria To Judge the Benefits of Self-Disclosure                                  
Deflecting Requests for Self-Disclosure                                                

Chapter  10: The Proper Placement of Advisement                       
Definitions of Advisement                                                                     
The Misuse of Advisement and Opinion Giving                                     
Principles Behind the Therapeutic Use of Advisement                           

Chapter 11:  Reflections and Interpretations                                 
Definitions of Reflection                                                                       
Therapeutic Uses of Reflection                                                             
Kinds of Reflections                                                                             
Reflections and Interpretations                                                             
Guidelines in the Use of Reflection                                                        
Interpretations Used in Social and Therapeutic    Contexts                                                                                              
Guidelines for the Therapeutic Use of Interpretations                            

Chapter 12:  The Judicious Use of Confrontations, Orders, and Commands                    
Confrontations: Definitions, Levels, Types                                            
Orders and Commands as Explicit Directives                                       

PART III:   Communications to Assure Comprehensive and Continuous Patient-Centered Care Under Challenging Circumstances                                                              

Chapter 13:  Communicating with Patients with Low Literacy
The Problem of Literacy in the United States
Functional Health Literacy  
Barriers to Health Literacy
Communication Interventions to Improve Health Literacy
Assessing Health Literacy
Documenting Health Literacy Problems
Practice Approaches to Improving Health Literacy
Improving Health Literacy with Patients with Chronic Illness
Importance of Using "Plain Language"

Chapter 14:  Communicating with Patients with Chronic and/or Life-Threatening Illness           
The Process of Dealing with Illness and Injury                                      
Provider Responses to the Chronic and Terminally Ill

Chapter 15:  Communicating with Patients in Crisis                
Definitions of Crisis                                                                              
Stress Theories and Understanding Crisis                                             
Types of Crisis                                                                             
Managing Crisis Behaviors                                                            

Chapter 16:  Communicating Effectively with Patients Displaying Significant Negative or Resistive Coping Responses                                                                                                         
Difficult Patients, Difficult Tasks, and Difficult Care
Monitoring and Mastering Reactions to Difficult
Patient Behaviors                                                                          
Selected Patient Encounters and Therapeutic Response
Communication responses related to emotional states                    
Communication in end-of-life care

PART IV:   Beyond Patient-Provider Encounters: Managing Communications Within And Across Relevant Constituencies                                                                                   

Chapter 17:  Communications within and across Health Care Provider Groups  
The Pervasive Nature of Groups                                                          
Diagnosing Group Communication Problems                                 
Improving Communication in Groups                                             
Inter-group Problems                                                                    

Chapter 18:  Conflict in the Health Care System: Understanding Communications and Resolving Dispute      
Conflicts and Communication                                                        
The Process of Resolution                                                             

Chapter 19:  Family Dynamics and Communications with Patients’ Significant Others   
The Family—A Major Dynamic Constituency                               
Families, Illness, and Providers                                                      


Chapter 20: The Privileged Nature of Patient and Provider Communications: The Issue of Patients’ Rights    
Issues of Professional-Patient Privilege
The Legal Status of the Patient-Provider Relationship                    
The Problems with Informed Consent and
Informed Choice                                                                           

Chapter 21:  The Privileged Nature of Patient and Provider Communications: Issues of Confidentiality, Anonymity, and Privacy                                                             
The Sacrosanctity of Provider-Patient
Common Dilemmas and Alternative Responses                             


Chapter  22:   Health Communications to Enhance Behavioral Change
Theoretical Frameworks and Models for Behavior Change
Social Learning and Social Cognitive Theory
The Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) and Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB)
The Health Belief Model (HBM)
Transtheoretical Model of Change
Behavioral or Social Ecological Model

Chapter  23:    Internet Use and Communications of Patients and Providers
Uses of the Internet for Health Related Information and Support
Health Care Information Internet Users Seek
Effects of the Internet on Patient-Providers Relationships

Chapter  24:    Altering Systems of Care to Enhance Health 
Care Communications
Overview: Systems of Care
System Characteristics to Enhance Patient-Provider and Provider-Provider Communications
Coordination of Care
Continuity of Care
Studies of System Changes and Their Potential Outcomes

Appendix A—Glossary                                                              

Appendix B—References                                                         


Gwen van Servellen, PhD, RN, FAAN-Professor Emeritus, School of Nursing, University of California, Los Angeles

Gwen van Servellen, RN, PhD, FAAN is a Professor Emeritus from the School of Nursing, University of California, Los Angeles where she served as Section Chair of the Acute Care Section and the Psychiatric Mental Health Section.  Additionally, she has consulted and taught abroad and extensively in the United States. Most recently she served as Interim Associate Dean of Research and Extramural Affairs, College of Nursing, Denver, University of Health Sciences Center.

She is a fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Nursing. She is an active consultant in curriculum development for graduate programs in nursing and development of research expertise in faculty building research programs in the areas of adherence to treatment, utilization of health care services, and psychosocial components and quality of life in persons with chronic illness. She is the author of seven textbooks, one of which won the American Nurses’ Association Book Award and one which was translated in Japanese.

She has authored or co-authored over 70 peer reviewed articles in a variety of professional journals. She is a reviewer for numerous journals, including Social Science and Medicine, Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Patient Education and Counseling, Psychology, Health and Medicine, Psychiatric Services, Quality of Life Research, and International Journal of Nursing Studies, Journal of Critical Care Nursing, Clinical Nursing Research, Western Journal of Nursing Research, AIDS Care, AIDS Patient Care and STDs, and AIDS and Behavior. She is on the editorial board for the international journal, Nursing and Health Sciences. She served on UCLA’s Protection of Human Subjects Committee for over seven years and is deeply concerned about low literate individuals’ understanding of the research and consent process.

Additional Titles by this Author
  • "I have used the 1st edition for years, and this is 2nd edition is even better. There's nothing on the market (and I've reviewed dozens of health communication books) that even comes close to its scope, its pragmatic balance between conceptual and applied content, and teachablity."

    —Joe Zoske, Siena College, Social Work Department

  • "I am very impressed with this book. There are a number of things I like. First, each chapter provides objectives which ensures the reader focuses on key points and concepts. Secondly, the format and order of the text provides background information necessary for students to understand general communication theory in a healthcare environment . Finally, there are specific examples of proper and improper interactions. When an improper interaction is identified, it is dissected revealing how patients may improperly perceive information from the doctor followed by a more appropriate example on how to better communicate with the patient."

    —Jeffrey H. Weiss, DC, Department of Clinical Practices, Texas Chiropractic College

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Detailed PowerPoint Lecture Slides, an Instructor's Manual


Detailed PowerPoint Lecture Slides and Instructor's Manual are now available for downloading for qualified instructors.  Click here to request access to download these supplements. 

The following instructor resources are available to qualified instructors for download

ISBN-13: 9780763755577

Additional Resources for Instructors
Instructor Manual
Slides in PowerPoint Format

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