To touch or not to touch: communication between physician and patient - a pilot study
In this article the act of touch as a form of rumverbal communication, which constitutes part of the "unspoken" or "silent sound" message between the doctor and patient, is investigated. Communication researchers often maintain that nonverbal communication carries vastly more weight than the verbal message content. International research indicate that patients feel positive about the inherent and constructive potential meaning conveyed by a doctor or health care professional who touches them in a supportive and empathic manner. Sometimes wonts are not sufficient to convey feelings, and the act of touch can fulfill this gap. A pilot study done in Bloemfontein under hospitalised patients confirms that patients feel that empathic touching can contribute to answering emotional needs, thus facilitating the total healing process and enabling the patient to cope better with sickness and possible hospitalisation. The tertiary training of doctors mostly account for interpretation of patients' verbal responses, while underplaying the patient's nonverbal behaviour. Verbal and nonverbal communication skills should be seen as inseparable at all times, and the sooner these skills can be acquired by physicians, the sooner will the quality of the doctor-patient-relationship improve in our communities.