Public Release: 

Are clinicians prepared to give bad news?

Two studies shine a light on end-of-life communications and uncover who delivers important news to patients and families

American College of Chest Physicians

TORONTO-(October 23, 2017) Delivering news about end-of-life issues is one of the most difficult tasks clinicians encounter in medical practice. Researchers from the Texas Medical Center on behalf of the ETHICS study investigators, in Houston, Texas, aimed to assess how prepared health-care providers feel in communicating end-of-life issues and determining if proper training had been given to health-care providers.

A 30-question survey addressing opinions regarding ethical issues, religion, and attitudes on specific group of patients, and communication skills was administered in 174 different institutions across 40 countries. 10,106 surveys were completed, showing that 30% of all health-care providers, and 11.5% of physicians let someone else give notice of a patient's death to the patient's relatives.

The authors concluded that only one-third of the health-care providers surveyed had undergone formal training in delivering bad news. Medical students received less training than other health-care professionals. Among physicians, more years of experience appear to compensate for the lack of training in delivering bad news. The study also found that nurses with no ICU experience do not deliver bad news to patients or their families. Women were more likely to communicate the death of patients than men.

"Learning good interpersonal communicationskills, including delivering bad news, should be part of all health education programs globally," states lead researcher Dr. Joseph Varon, "efforts to provide tools for communication skills are necessary in delivering better patient care."

Further results from this study will be shared at CHEST Annual Meeting 2017 in Toronto on Wednesday, November 1, 1:30 PM-2:30 PMat the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Exhibit Hall, Poster Number 105. The study abstract can be viewed on the journal CHEST® website.



CHEST 2017 is the 83rd annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, held October 28-November 1, 2017, in Toronto, Ontario. The American College of Chest Physicians, publisher of the journalCHEST®, is the global leader in advancing best patient outcomes through innovative chest medicine education, clinical research, and team-based care. Its mission is to champion the prevention, diagnosis,and treatment of chest diseases through education, communication, and research. It serves as an essential connection to clinical knowledge and resources for its 19,000+ members from around the world who provide patient care in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. For more information about CHEST 2017, visit, or follow CHEST meeting hashtag, #CHEST2017, on social media.

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