Breaking bad news: issues relating to nursing practice

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Abstract

The breaking of bad news was traditionally regarded to be the time when a doctor and nurse sat down with a patient and family members to provide information about, for example, a life-limiting diagnosis or a poor prognosis. However, breaking bad news is now generally accepted as a process, not a one-off event, and is considered to refer to any bad, sad or difficult information that alters patients' perceptions of their present and future. Nurses have an important role in the process of providing information and helping patients prepare for, receive, understand and cope with the bad news they have been given. This article aims to help nurses understand the process of breaking bad news and discuss the challenges and difficulties that nurses can face when they are involved with patients who have been given bad news. It also provides guidance with regard to preparing for breaking bad news, giving difficult information, responding to possible reactions, and supporting patients and their relatives after they have received bad news.

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