Lesson 7: Being Present at the Bedside When There’s Bad News

When a patient enters the hospital, the goal of the attending care providers is to help facilitate that patient’s wellbeing. Often, however, despite the best efforts of the attending doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists, the report to be shared with the patient and family at the bedside is not good.

  • “The treatment isn’t providing the hoped-for results.”
  • “The length of stay in the facility is going to be a longer than we anticipated.”
  • “I’m sorry to have to tell you, but it’s a terminal diagnosis.”
  • “The disability, in all likelihood, will be permanent.”
  • “I am so sorry. Jimmy just died.”

Being present at the bedside when there’s bad news is one of the most difficult tasks expected of care providers, especially when the patient is a child.

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