Some end-of-life conversations can be incredibly challenging but once you know how to deal with them, you will be able to really understand your patients and create a bridge towards them. This will help them with an easier transition, and at the same time, it will help you break the cycle you know too well:
Your heart is pounding and you feel completely helpless. Each time you manage to avoid a conversation with a dying patient you feel somewhat relieved, but you mostly feel terrible because you know you have left them alone with their problem. You simply don’t know what to say.
You don’t know the right words, you feel too anxious to think on your feet and you are afraid of making things worse.
Do you know that understanding how to communicate with a dying patient can take you from a place of being afraid to actually having the fulfilling experience that got you into this job in the first place?
The feeling that you let a patient down is horrible. You immediately get busy, focus on other patients and you do a good job with them. But the niggling thought that you didn’t do enough earlier follows you everywhere. If you keep busy and make enough noise, hopefully you will forget about it.
The journey home is not so forgiving though. You can’t stop thinking about it.
Once at home, you get busy again. You do a few chores around the house and you make yourself something to eat. You catch up with your partner and other members of the family and after dinner, you pour yourself a glass of wine, hoping to relax. The niggling voice still follows you around but there is always a new friend request on Facebook, a video on YouTube or something that manages to grab your attention and divert it from the feeling that you couldn’t help this patient.
You go to bed really tired and you fall asleep in just a minute. However, you get up in the middle of the night and you go to the toilet. The clock displays 3:00am and you quickly get to bed, hoping to fall asleep again.
But you begin to see the face of your patient, asking for help. They are helpless and feel afraid of what lays ahead of them. You revisit your conversation. On the one hand, you want to tell them everything will be okay, but you know that is not true. On the other hand, if you tell them that despite their doctors efforts they are going to die you will be telling the truth, but this is not going to make your patient feel any better. They need something from you and if you could only give it to them, this would make the difference between a dying man that feels held or a man that feels scared and alone.
Many practitioners tell me the most difficult part of their job is having THESE difficult conversations.
The reality is, although there is no simple formula that’s going to transform your communication with a dying patient overnight, there are tools that can help you communicate in an effective and compassionate way.
And those tools and techniques are relatively simple to adopt and implement.
As apsychotherapist who has worked full-time in palliative care over a decade, I have spent thousands of hours practicing my communication with many people at the end of their life.
Most healthcare professionals have a task to perform with patients, and communication just falls into it. In my case as a psychotherapist, however, I have nowhere to hide. Communicating with a dying patient IS my task. No excuses, no escape. I just have to face it.
You can imagine how much I have had to learn to fine-tune my words, my listening skills and my delivery. I have made every possible mistake that can be made, learnt from them and I have come up with some key points.
The result: I can now teach you some of the things I have learnt through years of pain, fear and struggle so that you don’t have to experience what I had to.
My Managing difficult conversations workshop is specifically designed so that you can transform your practice in just 4 weeks.
Don’t let yourself have another bad night sleep or difficult day at work.
Sign up for my Managing difficult conversations workshop today and put an end to unnecessary struggle.