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Breaking ‘bad news’ 

Breaking ‘bad news’
Breaking ‘bad news’

Maria Flynn

, and Dave Mercer

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date: 05 May 2021

The communication of sensitive or upsetting information is now routinely undertaken by specialist nurses. This is typically spoken about as ‘breaking bad news’ and often involves disclosing a life-changing diagnosis. However, an understanding of what constitutes ‘bad news’ will very much depend on the culture and context of an interaction, and general adult nurses will often find themselves in everyday situations where they have to break bad news. Whilst this may not be life-changing information, in the context of everyday healthcare, bad news may be telling an inpatient they are unable to go home or that their routine surgery has been cancelled. These everyday realities can be very upsetting for people and mean that nurses need to be skilled in assessing when information is likely to have an emotional impact. This chapter locates the concept of ‘breaking bad news’ in the context of contemporary nursing and discusses one recognized model of managing the process.

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