1. Be Honest
Even when you strive to provide the best care, you can't always prevent every chronic or terminal condition. One of the more difficult aspects of being a physician is being there during difficult times, in particular when you have to deliver the news of a chronic or terminal condition. However, this aspect of the job doesn't always come naturally to everyone.
Although you do want to gently give the news to the patient, you never want to lie. A majority of patients would like to know how long they have to live and the chances of medications, therapy or another treatment being enough to treat their condition.
2. Show Empathy
Some doctors don't have any bedside manner. They never try to make a connection with their patients. However, when giving bad news like the possibility of a condition that hinders a person's quality of life or may even cause death, it's vital to try to make a connection. Your patient is looking for your hand, figuratively speaking. Speak in a tone that shows you care and lets the patient know how devastating the diagnosis is and that you're there to assist as much as possible. It doesn't hurt to pull your chair closer and offer a tissue. Body language is everything, so it doesn't hurt to lean closer to show you care.
3. Answer All Questions
Even if you believe it's too much for the patient to handle, you legally may not withhold information from the patient. You have to answer all the questions a patient has about his or her condition. Keep in mind, the patient may get emotional, but they deserve to know the prognosis.
4. Make it Patient Centered
You shouldn't dominate the conversation. You need to show respect to the patient and his or her family. Do your best to remain humble and make the focus on the patient's pain and suffering. This not only allows you to connect with the patient, but it also lets the patient know you genuinely have his or her best interest at heart. Ultimately, you want to have the experience tailored to your patient specifically.
5. Take Into Account Their Religious, Spiritual and Cultural Needs
You have to determine the patient's spiritual, religious and cultural needs. This will allow you to connect with the patient on an emotional level, and they're probably in need of this connection at the moment when you're breaking the bad news to them.
6. Create a Plan
Just like writing a rough draft, you need to devise a course of action before you enter the room to discuss the situation with the patient, if it's at all possible. By developing a mental script, you can evaluate what you plan to say before you say something that's offensive.