Delivering Tough News

As an ultrasound technician or medical professional, there are good days, average days, great days, and days where you think about leaving it all behind. The days where you have to deliver bad news to a patient or to their family usually fall into that category. Giving bad news to someone isn’t only emotionally taxing and draining, it can feel like what you’re doing isn’t enough — but with regards to that last statement, nothing could be further from the truth.

As a distributor of eco-friendly ultrasound gel, EcoVue® works with medical professionals and clinics around the country. We do what we can to make your job easier, because we know how incredibly challenging it can be — and we are so thankful for what you do. Our eco-friendly sonogram gel is a way to provide the best for your patients while saving you money. Find advice and advice on delivering tough news, and thank you as always for your service.

Avoid sugarcoating and indirect words.

It can be so easy to try to make something sound less bad than it is. But as a medical professional, your patients aren’t just taking your words seriously, they’re taking them as facts. It’s essential that you are direct and upfront, and that you don’t skirt around the truth in order to make someone feel better.

Never offer false hope.

Most doctors and nurses have had this point drilled into them, but it can still be an all-too-easy mistake to make. Things like “I promise they’ll be OK” or “they’re going to be just fine” are giving guarantees that can’t always be upheld. Instead, say things like “We are going to do everything we can” — that’s a promise that you can keep.

Be direct and compassionate.

From the first two points, it’s clear that you need to be direct and straightforward — you should not withhold any information from the patient or their loved ones. Your tone and the way in which you deliver news means everything. Authenticity is one of the most important tools you can utilize during this time.

Give people time to take it all in.

As a medical professional, you’ll likely hear a diagnosis and know exactly what it all means. This isn’t true for the general public. But no matter what, people need time to digest and take in what you’re saying. The initial shock can be numbing or highly emotional, and if you skip over the step of people taking a minute to react, the rest of what you have to say will have less impact (and might not be comprehended at all).

The biggest takeaway with this point is when you’re delivering tough news, don’t overload someone with information all at once. Pause in a natural and authentic way to allow for people to fully understand the magnitude of what you’re saying.

Give time for follow-up questions.

In addition to just giving people time to come to terms with what you’re saying, make sure you leave plenty of time and room for the questions that they’ll inevitably have. Find the balance between you driving the conversation and them doing the same. Sometimes people might have tons of questions right away, other times people might be too stunned to ask questions, or they had an idea of what you were going to say. Regardless, the best thing you can do is create space for people to ask questions as needed.

Always aim for giving bad news in person.

Sometimes a phone call is the only way, but this method should always be a last resort. You don’t want to delay in giving a patient or their loved ones information, but doing so in person is always the first priority.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Human touch, a sincere gaze, and an empathetic tone can go a long way. Ultimately, it boils down to asking yourself, If I were on the receiving end of terrible news, how would I want to be told? One of the most important things that you as a medical professional can do is to strike the balance between being authentic, compassionate, and direct.

Excuse yourself as needed.

There are times when you have a visceral reaction to giving tough news. We’re only human, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of — there’s power in having that much care for others. That being said, the patient and/or their loved ones always come first. As nurse Rene B. explains, “It is okay to be emotionally invested and show that it is weighing on you too, but the patient should never ever have to comfort you.”

If you need to excuse yourself, do so. While there’s always the possibility that giving bad news hits you right in your gut, on the whole, giving bad news is something that becomes more manageable with time, experience, and knowledge.

Offer spiritual support to those in need.

Chaplains exist to help during these very difficult situations. Delegating spiritual guidance (as it’s requested) can be a huge relief and source of comfort for both you and the person receiving bad news.

Take care of yourself.

Our eco-friendly ultrasound gel blog has covered self-care in the past, and it’s times like these where self-care is most needed. You absolutely need and deserve to put yourself as a priority. If this means canceling plans, journaling, going for a walk, or even talking to your supervisor about taking a day off, go for it. Practicing self-care regularly is crucial to avoiding burnout, and to just simply take care of yourself.

Whether you’re a doctor, nurse, ultrasound technician, or any other medical professional, you have one of the toughest jobs around. EcoVue is committed to helping make your job easier. Our sustainable, eco-friendly ultrasound gel is not only great to work with, it’s great for your patients and saves your clinic money. Let us take care of the smaller details so you can focus on the big ones. Switch your sonogram gel to a company with decades of experience. Make the switch to EcoVue.