Background: A diagnosis of cancer is a stressful, difficult, and life-altering event. Breaking bad news is distressing to patients and families and is often uncomfortable for the nurse delivering it. Evidence-based communication models have been developed and adapted for use in clinical practice to assist nurses with breaking bad news.
Objectives: The purpose of this article is to provide an overview on breaking bad news and to review the utility of the SPIKES and PEWTER evidence-based communication models for oncology nurses.
Methods: Perceptions of breaking bad news from the nurse and patient perspectives, as well as barriers and consequences to effective communication, will be presented. Clinical examples of possible situations of breaking bad news will demonstrate how to use the SPIKES and PEWTER models of communication when disclosing bad news to patients and their families.
Findings: By using the evidence-based communication strategies depicted in this article, oncology nurses can support the delivery of bad news and maintain communication with their patients and their patients’ families in an effective and productive manner.