Author(s): VandeKieft GK
Breaking bad news is one of a physician's most difficult duties, yet medical education typically offers little formal preparation for this daunting task. Without proper training, the discomfort and uncertainty associated with breaking bad news may lead physicians to emotionally disengage from patients. Numerous study results show that patients generally desire frank and empathetic disclosure of a terminal diagnosis or other bad news. Focused training in communication skills and techniques to facilitate breaking bad news has been demonstrated to improve patient satisfaction and physician comfort. Physicians can build on the following simple mnemonic, ABCDE, to provide hope and healing to patients receiving bad news: Advance preparation--arrange adequate time and privacy, confirm medical facts, review relevant clinical data, and emotionally prepare for the encounter. Building a therapeutic relationship-identify patient preferences regarding the disclosure of bad news. Communicating well-determine the patient's knowledge and understanding of the situation, proceed at the patient's pace, avoid medical jargon or euphemisms, allow for silence and tears, and answer questions. Dealing with patient and family reactions-assess and respond to emotional reactions and empathize with the patient. Encouraging/validating emotions--offer realistic hope based on the patient's goals and deal with your own needs.