A difficult medical-related conversation stimulates an emotional reaction to the words a nurse may use toward their patient. Analyzing and pondering the conversation can make participants angry, anxious, or fearful. Often, such feelings discourage them from initiating the conversation. A problematic conversation usually feels burdensome, but nurses can apply some simple steps to prepare them.

These steps include: 


To prepare for a difficult conversation, consider evaluating yourself truthfully. Review your thoughts, behavior, and values regarding the situation. Self-reflection is critical to have the ideal mind frame in readiness for the conversation. Determine any personal plan or bias and likely trigger areas that may stimulate an emotional reaction.  

Beware that the conversation should target the prevailing situation while putting personal emotions away. Establish the right tone for the conversation and demonstrate an intention to help the other party. Develop and write objectives or results down to maintain the conversation’s course. Your objectives can keep the other party engaged in a collective push to attain them.  

Remember, to offer solutions, you should remain focused to help propel the conversation in the right direction. Before starting the conversation, commit to listening, being empathetic, and being open-minded to the other party’s viewpoint. 

Strive to Cooperate and Understand 

Be accommodative to different personal outlooks and ideas, and adopt a collaborative mindset as you listen to your patient. Don’t forget to show empathy. Instead of responding while your patient is talking, listen keenly and take down notes where necessary. Allow the patient to tell their story to the end.  Sometimes acute listening to the patients is all needed to help them through the discovery process.

Avoid accusatory language or laying blame on them when responding. Pay attention to the facts while monitoring body language to be compatible with the patient’s words. Body language that does not match the narrator’s words can be confusing.  

For instance, when you tell your patient that you understand their situation and are ready to practice open-mindedness but still maintain crossed legs and frowning, you could send different confusing messages.  

Suggest Strategies to Access Support and More Information. 

Some patients may not absorb all the data provided to them upfront, especially when given a new diagnosis. Availing your contact details like phone number and e-mail address may encourage them to seek your assistance at their convenient time once the consolation is over.  

Don’t discourage patients from reading widely about their condition. Give them ease of access to extra information and support, like adding them to patient support mediums. Further, you may want to provide support services, counseling, and signposting. Patient data resources from your organization can be of help to the patient. 

Illustrate the difficulty and focus on establishing common ground 

Consider targeting the main difficulty in a straightforward yet compassionate manner, and establish common ground with your patient. Finding common ground helps reduce tension. Patients want to feel confident and recognize your commitment to listening to them.  

For instance, you can demonstrate compassion towards a patient’s worries and anxieties and display the same towards the patient. That way, you express empathy and enable the patient to be more comfortable releasing crucial information about any concern or underlying problem they may be experiencing.  

During the difficult conversation, you may sometimes discover alternative reasons for the patient’s situation that could have escalated their fear or anxiety.  

Ensure the patient is emotionally stable. 

Experiencing hopelessness and helplessness is one of the critical challenges that patients with complex health conditions go through. Step in the patient’s shoes and think about the effects of losing control of yourself. Such not only triggers negative feelings but can also trigger communication breakdown.  

Effective listening and empathy can be crucial in this case. Further, keeping the patient updated and making them part of the decision-making is a foundation for granting them control. Remember, your conversation with the patient can have a substantial psychological effect and escalate their symptoms, especially in patients with respiratory-related complications.    


Managing a difficult conversation can be physically and mentally draining. Understand that powerful emotions can affect your mind and body, and consider adopting a self-care program. While initiating difficult situations can be challenging, it is necessary if nurses and medical practitioners care for their patients effectively.