Communicating effectively with ventilator-dependent patients is essential so that various basic physiological and psychological needs can be conveyed and decisions, wishes, and desires about the plan of care and end-of-life decision making can be expressed. Numerous methods can be used to communicate, including gestures, head nods, mouthing of words, writing, use of letter/picture boards and common words or phrases tailored to meet individualized patients’ needs. High-tech alternative communication devices are available for more complex cases. Various options for patients with a tracheostomy tube include partial or total cuff deflation and use of a speaking valve. It is important for nurses to assess communication needs; identify appropriate alternative communication strategies; create a customized care plan with the patient, the patient’s family, and other team members; ensure that the care plan is visible and accessible to all staff interacting with the patient; and continue to collaborate with colleagues from all disciplines to promote effective communication with nonvocal patients.

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