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Why Compassionate Communication

The presence of a caring, compassionate professional can ease the stress and positively effect a traumatic situation. Most people would be surprised to find out that traditionally, physicians and healthcare workers receive no formal training on how to break bad news  When a doctor, nurse or practitioner gives a patient or family tragic news, he or she becomes a part of their life forever. How the physician breaks that bad news can either help or make things worse. It is surprising to most people that something as important as communicating bad news is not taught to young physicians or nurses. 

Randomized studies have shown that communication learning skills may cause a positive impact on the person giving and receiving the bad news. Med Intensiva. 2006 Dec;30(9):452­9. The patient base in our nation and state continues to be older, and physicians are faced with numerous patients who have terminal illness. A constructive plan with specific techniques for breaking bad news can help physicians effectively perform this difficult task. The ultimate and final beneficiary is the patient and their family. Compassionate communication between healthcare workers and patients, has been shown to improve patient compliance, improve short term and long term outcomes and limit medical malpractice by as much as 60%.

When people seek medical attention they are, of course, looking for the medical training and knowledge of the practitioner. In dealing with some of the most traumatic diagnosis and prognosis it is also important for doctors to be able to actively imagine what the situation must feel like to their patients. Compassion allows patients to process difficult information better and deepens the experience for the healthcare professional. In a 2011 Washington Post article, Manoj Jain, MD says "Compassion is one of the 4 Necessary C's in healthcare, competency, communication, convenience and compassion." All make for a robust, effective and humane healthcare system.

The "Breaking Bad News Program" has been shown to be an extremely effective training tool that teaches healthcare workers how to communicate with patients and their families in the most compassionate and effective manner.