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G211 Breaking bad news: difficult undertaking for healthcare professionals
  1. DAP Corkin,
  2. R Hollis
  1. C&YP Specialist Forum, Royal College of Nursing, London, UK


Aims An evidence-based document¹ and journal article² are advocating effective strategies for nurses and doctors to utilise when supporting parents receiving ‘bad news’ as well as communication with children and young people during this difficult undertaking. Discussion outlines quality resources that will equip healthcare professionals in their practice. Nurses should aim to apply this guidance when undertaking this complex and challenging aspect of care.

Methods Delegates will be directed to communication frameworks, which are the product of a rigorous literature search of electronic databases and exhaustive consultation across four countries. Evidence suggests a variation in practice especially in the way in which parents are first given ‘bad news’ about their child’s health. ‘Bad news’ may relate to a child’s diagnosis or prognosis across a whole range of health and social care settings. Having significant or distressing news disclosed in a manner that lacks sensitivity or in an environment which is inappropriate may cause additional stress at what is likely to be a difficult time.

Results Developing the knowledge and skills of the pre-registrant student are important. A themed lecture with role-play outlining frameworks and communication of ‘bad news’ have their place in education. Ongoing evaluation within a University suggests that second year student nurses from within four fields of nursing have evaluated a timetabled teaching session very positively, commenting:

‘that was one of those lectures that reminds you that you’re in a privileged position as a nurse’

Also important to expose emerging healthcare professionals to inter-professional education and clinical areas where ‘bad news’ is given.

Conclusions Guidance assists nurses, midwives and health visitors to reflect upon their own experiences and to consider how their skills can improve¹. This document has additional guidelines on Child and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHs) and Emergency Care, as it was recognised that there were some very specific issues to address in these settings. The need for further research is highlighted and the requirement for supportive education and training opportunities to enhance both nurse’s and doctor’s skills in this important, challenging area of everyday practice.


  1. RCN. Breaking bad news: supporting parents when they are told of their child’s diagnosis. RCN guidance for nurses, midwives and health visitors. London; 2013

  2. Crawford D, Corkin D, Coad J, Hollis R. Educating children’s nurses for communicating bad news. Nursing Children Young People 2013;25(8):28–33

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