BBN Tip of the Month

The Power of Silence - Say your sorry and just shut up (2/18/17)

During a difficult conversation, silence can be very uncomfortable. In an effort to help someone feel better and to make ourselves less uncomfortable we continue to talk.  After Breaking Bad News, physicians often speak endlessly, describing the disease in detail or giving long speeches about the cause and physiology of the diagnosis.  Remember only about 10% of what is heard after the tragic news is delivered is actually retained. Recognize that long speeches immediately after giving bad news are not only useless but are usually aimed towards making ourselves less uncomfortable. Sitting silently with a patient and family after the tragic news is given tells the patient three things: First it says that you are comfortable being there with them. Second, that you are willing to stay with them and not looking to leave Third,  they can count on you to be there for the next step. So next time you feel the urge to keep talking, shut up and sit silently with your patient and their family. 

Body Language - Controlling an Emotionally Charged Situation (1/20/2017 Tip of the Month)

Subtle differences in body language can send very different  non-verbal messages. Here is one example of how a slight difference in a gesture can either inflame an already emotionally charged situation or calm it down.  During a difficult conversation such as an argument between family members or an angry patient, extending your hand with the fingers pointing up is interpreted as a reprimand. It non-verbally tells the patient or family member to  "stop" or "quiet down" and creates an adversarial relationship.  In contrast, extending your hand towards an angry patient with your palm down sends a message that your are "reaching out to help" and forms an instant relationship with the patient. 

Don't say you understand when you don't (12/5)

Sometimes, in an effort to make our patients and families feel better, we say that we understand how they feel. Unless we have been in the exact same situation as our patients, we can't really understand how they feel. Phrases such as "I understand" or "I know how you feel" are sometimes called "trap phrases" because they can offend the very same people we are trying to help. Instead of saying I understand, it is better to say "I can't even imagine how terrible this must be for you" 

Non-Verbal Communication (11/28)

What does our body language say about you? If your body language gives off the appearance of indifference or nervousness, it will create confusion and mistrust no matter what your words say. Remember 70% of all language is non-verbal. Check out next weeks "Body Language Tips" to learn more about how to use non-verbal communication to help people when they need you the most. 

Position Yourself for Success (11/14)

When entering a room to discuss bad news with patients and families, make sure you follow a few simple rules. 1) Always sit down and make sure the patient and family are also sitting down  2) Position your chair so that you are close enough to touch your patient.   3) Make sure your non-verbal language is consistent with what you have to say. Casual postures create confusion and distrust 

Relationship Words Matter  (11/7/2016 - Tip)

Make a personal connection with patients and families in just a short time by using "relationship words."  Phrases such as "I am going to help you get through this," or "I will check on you in a few days," can help make that connection. Speak in terms of "I" and not the team or the hospital. During tragic times, patients need to know that they have one person they can lean on.