Breaking Bad News in Palliative Care: Integrative Review

  • กัญญาวีร์ สิริโรจนามณี Graduate Student, Faculty of Nursing Chiang Mai University
  • ประทุม สร้อยวงค์ Corresponding author, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Nursing Chiang Mai University
  • พิกุล พรพิบูลย์ Assistant Professor, Faculty of Nursing Chiang Mai University
Keywords: Breaking Bad News, Palliative Care, Integrative Review


Breaking bad news is the most important step in palliative care because an appropriate approach leads to positive consequences for patients, family, and health care providers. This integrative review aims to explore the method of breaking bad news and its impact in palliative care. Evidence published in Thai and English from 2002 to 2013 was reviewed using a systematic review guideline, developed by the Joanna Briggs Institute (2008). The study instruments consisted of 1) the Research Screening Form, 2) the Critical Appraisal Form, and 3) the Data Extraction Form. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics to describe the characteristics of research and content analysis. The search strategy found 6 studies meeting the inclusion criteria. There were 3 qualitative studies, 2 descriptive studies, and 1 experimental study. The results revealed that:

  1. Method of breaking bad news: The results did not find an empirical method for breaking bad news, but can provide guidelines as follows: physicians should be the persons who break bad news, immediately after patients are diagnosed with terminal illness. Physicians need to have the communication skills to do this. Before breaking bad news, physicians should; build on their relationship with patients and families, use a sitting position when breaking bad news, and inform patients of diagnosed information. The physician should explain about the prognosis of the disease, treatment plan, and side effects of treatment. This information should be provided step-by-step to meet patients’ needs, using adequate time and appropriate language, showing empathy, giving hope and encouragement, while also giving opportunities for patients and families to accept and select treatment plans. They must also show respect for patients’ decisions. In addition, physicians should provide information about end of life care to patients and families.
  2. Impact of breaking bad news: patients and families receive knowledge and understanding about the illness, treatment plan, and side effects of treatment. They have opportunities to select an appropriate treatment plan, have a good quality of life, and have opportunities to prepare for the end of their life.

                        The results of this integrative review provided background information to understand the issues and methodology of breaking bad news. Replication studies regarding breaking bad news in palliative care, especially experimental studies, should be conducted.

Keyword:  Breaking Bad News, Palliative Care, Integrative Review


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