Delivering Tough News: The Responsibility of a Medical Professional

The medical profession is a place of progress, productivity and positive achievements. Every day doctors find new ways to make patients feel happier and healthier, and save lives on a regular basis.

Yet even the best Doctors, Nurses and Psychiatrists come up against tough cases; conditions and situations beyond their control. And sometimes, they have to deliver bad news to patients.

A Doctor may have to deliver a dark diagnosis to a patient, relating the news of a terminal illness or long-term, painful disease. Maybe a Nurse has to communicate an unwanted test result. Or a Psychiatrist must tell a patient that he/she has a serious psychological disorder; one not easily cured or resolved.

No matter how skilled, experienced or educated a medical professional is, it will never be easy for them to deliver grave news to a patient; particularly if this patient is a young person, or one whom the doctor has known and treated for a long time. However, since communicating important medical information to a patient is indeed 'part of the job,' it's vital that you do this job to the best of your ability; protecting patients' feelings while telling them the truth.

When giving a tough diagnosis, one that perhaps reveals the presence of a terminal or long-term illness, a medical professional should make all efforts to accentuate the positive. Discuss and explore all possible options of treatment, exploring any and all avenues of potential recovery, or at least life extension. And as treatment progresses, be sure to note and praise the patient for any progress that's been made.

At the same time, don't give the patient false hope or build a smoke screen around his/her condition. In the interest of treating their conditions, taking caring of their families and planning their futures, patients must know in full the extent of their illness and the challenges and consequences that lay before them. An exception to this might be an elderly patient, a mentally challenged person or a small child, who may not be emotionally or mentally equipped to handle dire news. In this case, the doctor may enlist the help of a patient's family member to ensure that he or she receives the best care possible. Indeed, the patient's friends and family members can serve as vital members of his/her health care team. With this in mind, the doctor may ask a patient to bring a trusted family member to important appointments.

In life-challenging situations, however, the physician may be the best friend that a patient has. You are the person who will take care of and protect the patient's best interest, keeping them as healthy and comfortable as possible throughout the most challenging times. And while you may have to deliver bad news from time to time, you also have the power to (with the aid of today's medical technology) extend the patients' lives in most cases, or at least make them more comfortable if the worst possible scenario arises.

Above all, a doctor is a patient's friend. And though friends can't always tell you what you want to hear, they also offer comfort and hope during your darkest hour.

Make the difference in the lives of your fellow human beings; explore a medical career today!

Compare Medical Careers

Compare medical careers

Find the perfect medical career with our interactive medical career comparison tool. Change what you're looking for & and instantly see the results.

Great Pay / Minimal School

Find medical jobs with great pay & minimal schooling:

Physically Active Careers

Find physically active healthcare careers:

Medical Careers Mentioned

  • Physicians and Surgeons, All Other
    Salary: $161,468
    Job Prospects: A-
    Education After HS: 11 years
    # Employed: 262,850
    Part Time: 8%
  • Psychiatrists
    Salary: $154,200
    Job Prospects: A-
    Education After HS: 12 years
    # Employed: 22,140
    Part Time: 8%
  • Registered Nurses
    Salary: $62,450
    Job Prospects: A+
    Education After HS: 2 years
    # Employed: 2,542,760
    Part Time: 21%

Career Spotlight Articles