A comparative study of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the communication practices of end-of-life care workers


  • Margo Turnbull Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Xiaoyan Ivy Wu Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Bernadette Watson Hong Kong Polytechnic University




communication, community services, crisis, workers, Australia, Hong Kong, end-of-life


Previous research has identified that effective and high-quality communication between patients, families and professionals is a key contributing factor to end-of-life (EOL) care and recovery after bereavement. Increasingly, this communication work is being done by non-clinical staff in places such as homes and community settings. These additional care providers offer important pre- and post-bereavement support that can improve the quality of EOL care as well as promote healthy grieving for families, friends and communities. Despite this contribution, though, little is known about how these non-clinical workers use communication in their daily practices. This paper reports on the analysis of a set of nine in-depth interviews conducted in Hong Kong and in one region of Australia that examined in detail relational aspects of communication that shape interactions between non-clinical workers and service users. Data were collected during the COVID-19 health crisis, when the workers experienced exceptional restrictions on communication. The findings of this study highlight the fundamental importance of both verbal and non-verbal communication to the relationships established between non-clinical workers and service users. Specifically, greater support for the development of communication skills in non-clinical EOL workers will promote improvements in the quality of EOL care.

Author Biographies

Margo Turnbull, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Margo Turnbull received her PhD in primary health care from the University of Technology, Sydney. She is currently research assistant professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Her research interests include health and wellbeing, communication, group interaction and community recovery after trauma.

Xiaoyan Ivy Wu, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Xiaoyan Ivy Wu is a communication researcher with a particular interest in barriers and facilitators to patient care in Hong Kong public hospitals and community-based services. She is also interested in intercultural communication and crosscultural adaptation positioned at the intersection of cross-cultural psychology and the social psychology of language.

Bernadette Watson, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Bernadette Watson is a health psychologist who studies intergroup communication in the health context. She researches how patients and health professionals communicate interpersonally and in groups as well as interactions across multidisciplinary and multicultural healthcare teams.


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How to Cite

Turnbull, M., Wu, X. I., & Watson, B. (2022). A comparative study of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the communication practices of end-of-life care workers. Communication and Medicine, 17(3), 295–306. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.19406