Communication: : Breaking Bad News

Introduction Road Sign
Image of patient communication

The spoken word is the most important tool in medicine.

Eric Cassell, MD
Author of “The nature of suffering and the goals of medicine”

This module presents tools for delivering bad news to patients

The three goals of communication in breaking bad news are:

  • imparting information
  • creating a therapeutic dialogue
  • making a realistic plan.


Learning Objectives After completing this module you will be able to:

  1. Give two definitions for bad news
  2. List at 3 common situations in your practice where you may have to break bad news.
  3. List three trigger questions that can be used with patients to dialogue about their illness process
  4. List at 3 characteristics of a proper setting in which to break bad news.
  5. List the various steps of delivering bad news in an optimal way
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