Chapter 1: Communication essentials

Opening the conversation

Honesty is the best policy. However, honesty doesn’t mean being brutally frank. 

  • Prepare the family when you have difficult news to share. This gives them a chance to ready themselves for what’s to come. You might say:


Conversation Prompts

I want to be honest and realistic with you. I’m going to say some things that are difficult to hear.

  • If there’s more than one person present, check who wishes to be included in the conversation.
    • If the patient is conscious and lucid, determine if they want to take part.
    • Some family members may wish to be present; some may choose not to be – and that’s okay.
  • Reinforce that you’ll be honest with them. This helps establish a relationship of trust.

  • Reassure the family that you’re working together to ensure the patient gets the best possible care.