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Breaking bad news: a case study on communication in health care

Lynne Hemming First published: Last updated:

Breaking bad news is something most nurses will be involved with at some time in their career. 

Research has shown a strong relationship between communication skills and patients’ understanding of their diagnosis and treatment. The specialist nurse has a central role in the support and education of patients and their families, as they are able to allocate appropriate clinic time with the patient after a consultant clinic appointment to ensure they have understood the discussion. 

Effective communication as well as time should be tailored to each patient, allowing trust to be built. The recognition of this has led to advanced communication courses being developed for all health professionals to take advantage of.

Communicating bad news

Any information which adversely and seriously affects an individual’s view of his or her future.
Department of Health, 2003

Breaking bad news to patients is a complex and often difficult task that involves dealing

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Lynne Hemming

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