S - Set up and sit down

You have to prepare yourself for the task and you have to prepare the space where it will be done.

There are a lot of personal issues and biases to deal with before you break bad news to a patient. If you aren’t aware of your own fears and anxieties, you may not be able to provide the best care for others. You should think about what you are going to say and the steps which you will use. Every patient is different in their responses, but you should have an approach in mind. Take a breath and calm down.

Patients who have been given bad news have been asked for their feedback on the setting which they prefer and most have expressed that they prefer a quiet, private space. You can appreciate that patients will have a strong emotional reaction and they want to be able to express this in private. There may be a time when a patient stops you in the hallway, but don’t be tempted to deliver bad news until you have had a chance to arrange an appropriate setting. Make a point of seeking out a private space. Many studies have also stressed the importance of the doctor sitting down. Patients don’t want to feel that the doctor is rushed and are less intimidated and more comfortable when the doctor sits down with them. It is one way of establishing rapport with the patient.