Delivering Bad News

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Delivering Bad News: Helping your patients retain dire details| Modern Medicine Oct 1, 2009|

The purpose:
This article focuses on providing healthcare professionals with suggestions that will help their patients remember important information immediately after receiving bad news. Although nurses usually don’t deliver the bad news, they are often in the room when it is given and are often the person that has to give the patient instructions immediately afterward. Research supports the fact that patients might not hear much of the nurse or physician tells them at this time, therefore they retain very little of the valuable information. Patients with poor prognoses are especially at risk and retain even less than patient with fair to good prognoses. This research also revealed that the more information given to the patient the less they retained. Information data:

The first suggestion that will help patients retain information in the event of bad news is to prepare the patient ahead of time for how they will hear the results. Ask them to bring a spouse, supportive friend or a tape recorder. The second suggestion is to have a face to face conversation with the patient. This will enable you to watch the patient’s body language. Nonverbal language plays a big role in the assessment of a patient’s well being of state of mind at the time. This meeting should be during a reserved time period, so that you or the patient doesn’t feel rushed. A third suggestion is to decide on a few key points to make and stick with presenting these few only. Giving a patient too much information will result in them retaining even less. The fourth suggestion is start with the prognosis, not the diagnosis. Say something like “you have a condition that is very treatable with medication.” If it is a grim diagnosis start with empathy and then convey the commitment to the patient. State “we’re here to talk about what the test showed and I want you to know that I...
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