One of the most difficult skills to master, no matter your healthcare specialty, is how to have a tough conversation with a patient. It could be related to end-of-life issues, or addressing loneliness or even no compliance with medication. No matter the type of conversation, it takes skill to deal appropriately with the issues, and perhaps, your own feelings of frustration or sadness that may take you by surprise.
Having a difficult conversation with a patient can be stressful. It’s not something that clinical training can completely prepare you for. In these cases, experience and time will help you deal appropriately with the most awkward conversations.
This article will give you three of the most important things to try to keep in mind as you broach those first few touch conversations.
First, Know Thyself
Developing an awareness of what conversations make you a little nervous is the first step toward preparing yourself for tough, but necessary conversations. Part of the role of caregiving can be to provide emotional support while still protecting your own heart. That can be a high tightrope to walk, but it’s imperative to avoiding burnout so you can stay in your chosen field long term. This is especially hard if you are caring for a terminally ill patient and interacting in their daily lives.
For me, learning to have effective, compassionate conversations is a bit like learning to drive a car. I was terrified at the beginning, but with the help of a great instructor, I did get the hang of it. Nevertheless, I still have to focus every time I drive and I’m still learning new routes for new journeys.
Second, Know The Rules
Having a non-compliant patient is one of the most frustrating situations any healthcare worker can address. Imagine the diabetes patient that refuses to eat properly or a smoker with COPD that can’t (or won’t) try to quit. How can a caregiver entice the patient to follow treatments that – if they don’t – could have serious consequences?
Of course, the patient has a right to refuse treatment. But clinicians must have a strategy to communicate the risks inherent in non-compliance. Approaching these discussions in a way that engages the patient instead of shutting them down, while teaching them the reasons behind the medical treatment, are necessary skills that will get better over time.
Third, Know How to Communicate
Every patient is different, of course; so employing a few different communication techniques will help you have a tough conversation. Sharing bad news or having a difficult conversation should include ways to address patient questions or emotions if they arise. Learning effective communication skills to share complicated treatment strategies or medication schedules or even to simply share medical knowledge with a layperson all require the healthcare provider know how to effectively communicate with all kinds of people in a variety of situations and settings.
Learn and Practice New Skills
National Recruiters can help you polish these skills. We offer a variety of short- and long-term assignments for clinicians and healthcare workers. If you’re ready to learn and practice new skills, we can help. Contact our top healthcare recruiters today.