How to Break Bad News
A Guide for Health Care Professionals
For many health care professionals and social service providers, the hardest part of the job is breaking bad news. The news may be about a condition that is life-threatening (such as cancer or AIDS), disabling (such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis), or embarrassing (such as genital herpes). To date medical education has done little to train practitioners in coping with such situations. With this guide Robert Buckman and Yvonne Kason provide help.
Using plain, intelligible language they outline the basic principles of breaking bad new and present a technique, or protocol, that can be easily learned. It draws on listening and interviewing skills that consider such factors as how much the patient knows and/or wants to know; how to identify the patient's agenda and understanding, and how to respond to his or her feelings about the information. They also discuss reactions of family and friends and of other members of the health care team.
About the Author
Dr. Robert Buckman (1948–2011) was a medical cancer specialist and the author of I Don't Know What to Say: How to Help and Support Someone Who Is Dying, and What You Really Need to Know about Cancer: A Comprehensive Guide for Patients and Their Families.
"This short, easy-to-read book... has a great potential to improve the way clinicians understand the process of breaking bad news. The book features clear writing, believable examples, and practical suggestions... Clinicians of every specialty and skill level will benefit from How to Break Bad News. Further, it should be required reading for all medical students and residents who plan to take care of people."
"In his fine book, Robert Buckman... presents a well-organized, thoughtful, and readily assimilated approach to breaking bad news... At last, we have a wise, useful, readable textbook on the communication of unpleasant information... Buckman has treated an enormously important and complex topic in a sensible, practical, and engaging fashion. Sophisticated concepts are put forth concisely, clearly, and simply, with relatively little jargon... This thoughtful and stimulating presentation will be appreciated by all clinicians faced with the difficult task of sharing bad news."
"This is an exceptional and important book that excels in its organization, readability, practicality, value, and relevance to family medicine... The book would be helpful (and should be required reading) for health professions students, residents, and junior practitioners of all specialties, but the text is so practical that even seasoned clinicians (perhaps unaware of suboptimal communication styles) would benefit."
"An expert in breaking bad news is not someone who gets it right every time; she or he is merely someone who gets it wrong less often, and who is less flustered when things do not go smoothly."
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