Reflective accounts

Breaking bad news

Breaking bad news to patients and their families is a frequent occurrence in my role as a staff nurse working on a cardiothoracic intensive care unit. The CPD article provided strategies that I can apply immediately in my practice as well as outlining challenges and difficulties that I may encounter when communicating bad news to patients and their families.

Picture credit: REX

This article has changed my attitude to breaking bad news. I now recognise that any news may have a negative effect, for reasons that may not always be anticipated. Therefore all information regarding care should be shared thoughtfully and compassionately.

The CPD provided practical guidance for breaking bad news to patients. This process involves preparation, giving the information response, follow up and debrief.

Preparation is essential and, done correctly, can provide a basis for a therapeutic relationship.

The first stage of preparing to break bad news involves the healthcare professional preparing themselves. They should consider clear language, anticipate potential questions, have relevant information available and prepare for an emotive response.

The second stage of preparation involves preparing service users for the news they are about to receive. This entails practical preparation, such as bringing the relevant parties together, providing a quiet and comfortable


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