Breaking bad news
A year or so ago, I was a house officer, busy scurrying around the wards taking blood, prescribing fluids, and stealing the odd moment for myself. One evening on ward cover, I was bleeped by a nurse, who asked me to certify a patient who had just died. The family was also about to arrive, but were not yet aware that their relative had died. Would I come and break the news? My answer came quickly: “No problem.”
I had been a house officer for about two months, and already I could feel intermittent surges of confidence. Breaking bad news remained a delicate and disturbing challenge, and as I made my way to the ward I ran through the script in my head. I did not realise that within 20 minutes I would be left in tears.
On arrival I went to the patient, confirmed their identity, and that they