Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for nursing students; equipping the next generation of nursing professionals

Faith Woodring, Mary Towle Harmon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is often used for patients who are temporarily non-speaking. However, considering AAC for these patients in intensive care units (ICUs) has only recently started to gain the attention of health care providers in the hospital setting. Currently, few nursing programs include content in their curricula as relates to this population. Objectives: To investigate the feasibility of embedding a brief inservice into an existing undergraduate nursing course, and to determine the feasibility and relevance of AAC use during their clinical ICU rotation. Design: A longitudinal survey study using three time points: pre- and post-inservice, and post implementation following a clinical rotation. Setting: University nursing program classroom during an Adult Health and Illness course. Participants: Twenty-seven undergraduate nursing students enrolled in the Adult Health and Illness course. Methods: The participants were given a brief inservice educating them on the use of AAC. The students were given AAC boards to use during their ICU clinical rotation. Survey data was collected before and after the inservice and at the end of the clinical rotation. Results: Pre-service nursing students responded favorably to a brief inservice embedded into an existing nursing course. Survey data indicated an increase in the students' knowledge of AAC (z = 4.52, p <.05) and awareness that AAC can improve communication between patients and staff (z = 2.24, p <.05). Conclusion: An interdisciplinary activity between Communication Sciences and Disorders and Nursing departments about AAC could be a new and promising solution to increase communication with non-speaking patients in the ICU.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105662
JournalNurse Education Today
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Augmentative and alternative communication
  • Inservice
  • Intensive care unit
  • Interdisciplinary training
  • Pre-service nursing students
  • Speech-language pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Education


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