Improving medical students

Comfort Crying Patients like a Pro

Posted by medliorator on October 30, 2008

Crying can be a completely natural and expected response to information… You also don’t know what else is going on in the patient’s life; sometimes your news is actually the single straw—as unremarkable as it may be—that, according to the proverb, breaks the camel’s back.

You don’t have to do anything if your patient is crying. Sometimes, the best course of action is to just be with the patient. The gives the message that (1) it’s okay to cry, (2) I’m not going to freak out just because you’re crying, and (3) maybe the best response to the situation is to cry.

  1. Acknowledge the situation in a calm manner – Try: “This is understandably upsetting. I’m afraid that I cannot spend the time with you that I’d like to due to the clinic schedule.” Your overt recognition of the situation acknowledges the patient’s experience. Sometimes, that in itself can be healing.
  2. Communicate that you are concerned about the patient and, though there may be nothing you can do to “fix” the situation, you would like to offer what you can – you can offer to visit the patient again later on in the day… you can offer to call the patient in a day or two to check in
  3. Ask the patient what would be most helpful in that moment – This inquiry communicates that you respect the patient’s opinion, that this is a collaborative effort, and that you want to help.

What to Do When a Patient is Crying [intueri]

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