Breaking bad news in inpatient clinical settings: role of the nurse

Authors

  • Clare Warnock,

    1. Clare Warnock BSc MSc RN Practice Development Sister Weston Park Hospital, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
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  • Angela Tod,

    1. Angela Tod MMedSci PhD RN Principal Research Fellow Centre for Health and Social Care Research, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK
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  • Julie Foster,

    1. Julie Foster BMedSci RN Governance Coordinator Gynaecology and Urology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK
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  • Cathy Soreny

    1. Cathy Soreny BA RN Opthalmic Assessment Nurse Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK
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C. Warnock: e-mail: clare.warnock@sth.nhs.uk

Abstract

warnock c., tod a., foster j. & soreny c. (2010) Breaking bad news in inpatient clinical settings: role of the nurse. Journal of Advanced Nursing66(7), 1543–1555.

Abstract

Title. Breaking bad news in inpatient clinical settings: role of the nurse.

Aim.  This paper is a report of an exploration of the role of the nurse in the process of breaking bad news in the inpatient clinical setting and the provision of education and support for nurses carrying out this role.

Background.  The term ‘breaking bad news’ is mostly associated with the moment when negative medical information is shared with a patient or relative. However, it can also be seen as a process of interactions that take place before, during and after bad news is broken. Little research has been conducted exploring the role of the nurse in the process of breaking bad news in the inpatient clinical setting.

Methods.  A questionnaire was developed using Likert scales and open text questions. Data collection took place in 2007. Fifty-nine inpatient areas took part in the study; 335 questionnaires were distributed in total and 236 were completed (response rate 70%).

Results.  Nurses engaged in diverse breaking bad news activities at many points in care pathways. Relationships with patients and relatives and uncontrolled and unplanned events shaped the context in which they provided this care. Little formal education or support for this work had been received.

Conclusion.  Guidance for breaking bad news should encompass the whole process of doing this and acknowledge the challenges nurses face in the inpatient clinical area. Developments in education and support are required that reflect the challenges that nurses encounter in the inpatient care setting.

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