Background Although, communication is an integral part of medical practice, it is also the source of 20–50% of patient complaints. Breaking bad news is a challenge across all disciplines yet little time is devoted to formal training and practice at any stage of medical training. We aimed to improve medical student confidence in delivering bad news in an appropriate and sensitive manner.
Methods Students received a teaching session including didactic teaching, discussions, video example and scenario group work. Students completed an anonymous questionnaire after the session, which assessed their basic demographics, aspects of breaking bad news (BBN) and their confidence in BBN pre and post the session.
Results 114 students completed the questionnaire, of whom 59 were male and 74 were undergraduate-entry. 110/114 had previously considered that breaking bad news might be an important part of their future jobs however only 73/112 had previously considered that breaking bad news might consume a lot of time in their future jobs. 83 had witnessed professionals breaking bad news to either patients or family members in their training, and most commonly this was in paediatrics (n=40), General Surgery (n=24) and adult medicine (n=45). The average change in confidence in breaking bad news was +2.46 (range –1 to 6). Students rated the session as 7.79/10 for usefulness and 8.22 for interest.
Discussion Training in the communication skill of breaking bad news is useful and interesting to medical students. Identifying key strategies to employ whilst breaking bad news, and engaging in role play, improves confidence.
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