When children are affected by terminal illnesses it is heartbreaking for all involved. A child dying disturbs some of our deepest conventions: Children are symbols of future potential and hope. Therefore their deaths cause us to mourn more deeply than we would for others.
Before starting any thinking about how you are going to tell your patient/parent there are a few valuable things that you must remember and these are all to do with being a good communicator. •Eye contact – Your eye contact needs to be confident and you need to be able to look at these people straight in the eye when breaking this news. However do not be over bearing or intimidating as you may make the patient/parent feel uneasy and uncomfortable. •Body Language – Again your body language must be confident, as if you are confident there is more chance of making the patient/parent more comfortable and to place more trust in you, however if you where showing signs of being nervous or scared to inform them of this news then you will make this ordeal twice as bad for the patient/parent. •Speech – Again confidence is key, no shouting or loud voices as this becomes scary however quiet voices are not good either. You need to be clear and calm there can be no room for shakiness or rumbling in your voice.
To break the news to a parent/patient we need to make sure that we ourselves are sufficiently informed concerning the patient’s situation and illness. You also must make sure that you are able to break this news in the best way possible for the patient. There are three main steps in which you should follow;
1.Preparing for the consultation You need to firstly ask your receptionist to make an appointment with the patient/parents as they need to hear this from you in a face to face situation. This then gives them the opportunity to ask you questions. You must ensure that it is possible for the patient/parent to bring along a spouse or companion, you also have to ensure that you have all of your time is focused on these people and that there will be no distractions. It should be possible for all mobiles and pagers to be switched off. The last part of this stage is to know your patients illness through and through, their can be no room for error in this situation and everything you say must be the truth.
2.Communication This is a key step and must be followed to the best of your ability. Ensure that you have structure to the consultation. You must remember that the patient/parent may not be in employment within the health sector, so therefore you must use language that is appropriate, however do not treat or underestimate how much your patient/parent may know. You may want to prepare them with “Am sorry, but this isn’t good news” just so that there are no false hopes. Know how much the patient/parent knows about the illness and possibly break it up into stages; diagnosis, implications, treatment. Patients will change in the amount of honesty they want and may appreciate some ambiguity if the prognosis is very poor; an individual assessment will need to be made. Honesty includes being honest about what you do not know too. Judge how the patient/parent is taking this information do they need to know more right now or could it be left for another day. Always ensure they are comfortable and that you have as much time as possible for them.
3.Conclude Consultation You need to be positive with the patient/parent at this time, but not over the top. A follow up appointment should be made and make sure they know that you are there for them whenever they have any questions. Try to leave on a positive note, as if the see you are positive it may indeed give them more courage.
All families are different and talking to the parents first about the situation that they are in is the best thing that you can do. Obviously you wouldn’t go straight to the child. The family and you should talk through options and ways that everyone in the family can get through this horrid ordeal, you will be able to give suggestions in which is the best route to go down but ultimately the family will decide. However they are going to need your full support and you are going to need to call on a lot of resources. There are many resources you could get in contact with and a child and adult psychologist will most certainly be needed. Suggest all groups and councillors that help families deal with this trauma as they are going to need a lot of help.
Communication Theory I myself would use this particular communication theory as it is based on a one to one and I honestly believe that this type of news can only be broke to someone in this type of situation. However it all depends on what you think is best for the patient/parent.
Michael Argyle is widely known as one of the best social psychologist of the twentieth century. Michael Argyle believes in the communication cycle, he believes that it is just as important as driving a car and that everybody should learn it. The theory behind this thinking is that Argyle believes to be able to drive a car you have to change your methods to match the conditions of what is happening on the road. Argyle believes that when driving a car you need to be constantly watching your surroundings and figuring out how to respond to and when to respond and then repeating this cycle until your journey is over. Argyle believes that almost the same cycle is needed in communication.