Guide How To Break Bad News

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In plain terms: It is harder to physically fight someone when you're seated than when you're standing. In the same way, be sensitive to how you are seated relative to the other person. If you're behind a desk, keep in mind that that desk can serve as a psychological as well as physical barrier.

If you feel comfortable doing so, and if you believe the other person is comfortable, consider sitting on the same side, or at least sitting at right angles. Either way, you will have signaled that are "on that person's side.

Sometimes the bad news you deliver is not your fault. Even so, the person who hears it will take out his or frustration on you.

Other tips?

The classic example, of course, is the help desk analyst who tells a caller that the system or network will be down for another three hours. If you are that hapless analyst, be prepared to be the messenger who gets shot.

Unfortunately, it comes with the territory. However, the more you can remind yourself that they aren't upset at you personally, the greater the chances of keeping your stress under control. Remember that when you deliver bad news to a person, you must deal with two issues: the technical matter of the news itself as well as the emotional reaction to the bad news. In fact, this emotional reaction is the aspect of your encounter that is far more critical.

To reduce the chances of being the shot messenger, let the other person know that you are aware of their emotional reaction. You need not be a Dr. Phil, but a simple "I'm sorry about this situation" or "I'm sorry to have to tell you this" can work wonders. Maybe the bad news you are delivering concerns your or your group's inability to achieve some objective.

Nonetheless, is there any silver lining news you can give? In other words, can you reframe the situation? Similarly, maybe you could restore only three of the four weeks of data they lost. Of course, they would have preferred to recover all four weeks.

How to Deliver Bad News

But isn't three weeks of recovered data better than none? This approach is not meant as en endorsement of mediocrity, but rather an attempt to get the other person to see things a different way. The revenue we generate from these adverts allows us to keep the website free.

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Advertising We use Google Adsense, which serves personalised advertisements to users based on their browsing activity. Are there any recent discharge letters, relevant clinic letters or consultations within the practice? Is the patient fit enough to undergo further investigations? Do they have capacity to make decisions? Are there any barriers to communication, such as language or any disabilities? Are there are any patient information leaflets or local support groups that would be useful for the patient to take away with them following the appointment?

Delivering the news Be flexible in your approach to delivering the news.

Breaking Bad News

Key non-verbal skills to consider include: Eye contact Active listening Empathy and sensitivity to the situation, including empathic statements where appropriate Soft tone Avoid any judgment Avoid making any assumptions Data gathering may be required. However, the following are useful points to consider: Establish what the patient already knows.

Explore their thoughts and concerns around their symptoms and the test or tests performed. Do they know which test they had and, if so, do they know why? It is not uncommon to see patients who have undergone tests in hospital not knowing what was done, why it was done or even that it was done at all. Recap the original symptoms reported if appropriate. Summarise information back to the patient to show you have listened and have established the correct sequence of events. Find out how much the patient actually wants to know - this will vary from patient to patient.

The rest of the consultation What subsequently happens during the consultation will depend on the type of news, how the patient responds and their personal background, culture and health beliefs. Have a flexible approach and find out at this point how the patient wishes to progress. Recognise the impact this has on you Breaking bad news can be emotionally difficult for the GP involved and on occasions it can be a stressful experience.

Common pitfalls in breaking bad news Not having full knowledge of facts. Have you registered with us yet? Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins Register Already registered? Email address.