Breaking bad news
Intended for healthcare professionals

Breaking bad news

Aby Mitchell Professional lead simulation and immersive technologies, senior lecturer in adult nursing, College of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, University of West London, Brentford, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To understand why breaking bad news effectively to patients is a core part of the nursing role

  • To learn more about the communication skills required when delivering bad news

  • To contribute towards revalidation as part of your 35 hours of CPD (UK readers)

  • To contribute towards your professional development and local registration renewal requirements (non-UK readers)

Nurses are often faced with situations in their practice where they have to break bad news to patients and their families. Such conversations are complex and can be challenging for all parties. It is essential that nurses are equipped with the skills required to manage such situations effectively to ensure optimal outcomes and quality of care for patients and their families. This article discusses some of the barriers to breaking bad news effectively to patients and the communication skills required to engage in challenging conversations. It also describes two mnemonic protocols that can be used by nurses to structure challenging conversations with patients face to face and over the phone.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2022.e11898

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Mitchell A (2022) Breaking bad news. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2022.e11898

Published online: 22 August 2022

Want to read more?

Already subscribed? Log in


Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first 3 months

Your subscription package includes:
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals and their archives
  • Customisable dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests
RCN student member? Try Nursing Standard Student

Alternatively, you can purchase access to this article for the next seven days. Buy now