Sounds of comfort in the trauma center: How nurses talk to patients in pain

Adele Proctor, Janice M. Morse, Elizabeth Shirin Khonsari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Language that trauma center nurses directed to 29 distressed patients was systematically examined from videotaped data. A unique set of co-occurring linguistic features and intonation patterns which characterize the comfort talk register was identified. Descriptive data reveal that nurses reserve this register for patients only and that linguistic adjustments are made within the register for children. The nurses' comfort talk register is also characterized by a restricted set of pragmatic functions which include: (1) helping patients to 'hold on'; (2) obtaining information that contributes to the assessment of the patient's condition; (3) giving and receiving information about procedures; and (4) verbally communicating a sense of caring to the patient. Other grammatical and lexical features that are used in conjunction with selected intonation contours which delineate the nurse's comfort talk register are discussed relative to interactional processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1669-1680
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 1996


  • Caring
  • Comfort
  • Communication
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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