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Navigating the Emotional Toll: Challenges Doctors Face When Delivering Bad News

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Waqas Arain
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Navigating the Emotional Toll: Challenges Doctors Face When Delivering Bad News

Delivering bad news is an intrinsic but stressful part of a physician's job. The psychological toll it takes on doctors and the challenges it presents for effective communication are significant concerns. According to Dr. Mattias Tranberg, a psychologist at the Palliative Development Center of Lund University and Region Skane, despite the existence of resources like courses, conversation templates, and comprehensive programs, the conversation involving prognosis and emotions with patients and their families remains a hurdle.

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Decoding the Complexity of Clinical Communication

In a study involving 22 doctors from various specialties, a phenomenological analysis revealed that delivering bad news is not a linear process but a circular one involving five interconnected elements. These elements shape the doctors' actions and feelings, which in turn affect the doctor-patient relationship and the doctors' well-being. This implies that the conveyance of bad news is not merely a task but a complex process that requires the integration of medical knowledge, self-awareness, presence, and flexibility.

Improving Resources for Doctors

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While strategies like the SPIKES template, the Kronoberg model, and the Serious Illness Conversation Program have been designed to aid doctors, there is a pressing need for improving these resources. Medical education and clinical practices should recognize the emotional toll on doctors and provide them with the necessary support. Employers should also ensure that doctors have the time needed for these conversations and that their emotional needs are considered, promoting a sustainable healthcare environment.

Other Healthcare Challenges

Healthcare globally is grappling with various challenges. From economic constraints leading to tough prioritization decisions, including the controversial idea of biological age limits for certain procedures, to temporary shortages of essential drugs like Ozempic projected for 2024. In Gaza, premature babies are being transported to Egypt for care due to infrastructural deficits. Even in Sweden, several hospitals are facing significant financial crunches and are contemplating stringent savings measures.

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