Effective communication is one of the social conditions of possibility required in order for anyone to develop a capacity for agency and autonomy, and for that agency to be effectively expressed in public settings. Effective, compassionate communication creates social, moral, and sentient public spaces where patients and families can be heard, recognized, and thus increase their understanding of their possibilities and/or be comforted. Such a social space requires attunement, compassion, and effective 2-way communication on the part of healthcare workers. Compassionate understanding at such times of crisis is a good in itself, regardless of what strategic aims might be accomplished in this social-relational space that fosters recognition and disclosure, rather than silence, neglect, or abandonment.

Recent articles have begun to report qualitative research findings on the role of the nurses assigned to communicate with patients and families and physicians...

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