Give patients the opportunity to express their feelings

You must give patients the opportunity to express their feelings and ask questions, whether during regular office visits or during discussions following disappointing outcomes. Doing so can help the healing process.

With this approach, use open-ended questions that allow patients to guide the conversation. For example, ask "What is your understanding of what happened during your surgery?" When patients respond, listen for knowledge as well as emotion.

Repeat back and clarify the story until you have a better idea of what the patient knows, feels, and wants to know. Skipping these questions or assuming that you know the answers will make you seem more rushed and less compassionate.

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