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Understanding the context of communication is extremely important in accurately identifying the meaning of a message. Think of the difference in the meaning of “I’m going to kill you!” when stated in two different contexts: anger during an argument and when one friend discovers another is planning a surprise party for him or her. Understanding the context of a situation gives the nurse more information and reduces the risk for assumptions.
To clarify context, the nurse must gather information from verbal and nonverbal sources and validate findings with the client. For example, if a client says, “I collapsed,” she may mean she fainted or felt weak and had to sit down. Or she could mean she was tired and went to bed. To clar-ify these terms and view them in the context of the action, the nurse could say,
“What do you mean collapsed?” (seeking clarification)
“Describe where you were and what you were doing when you collapsed” (placing events in time and sequence).
Assessment of context focuses on who was there, what happened, when it occurred, how the event progressed, and why the client believes it happened as it did.
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