Anyone who’s gone through a life threatening illness knows that receiving bad news from your doctor can be difficult and frightening. Much of my reaction to information during my breast cancer experience was colored by the way it was shared with me by the doctor I was hearing it from at that particular instance.
My OBGYN was the one who communicated to me that the radiologist thought the lump in my left breast was cancerous. I’ve known my OBGYN for many years and appreciate his candor and style of communication so it was frightening but at least I already knew, respected and trusted him.
But in a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment plan, you’ll meet with many new doctors over the course of your treatment and all will have a different style of communication. For me, the individual communication styles of the various doctors I worked with was very important in my reaction to what they had to communicate, and my ability to feel like a true partner with them throughout my treatment plans.
I recently heard of a 501c3 organization called BBN Foundation (Breaking Bad News), which was developed by Dr. Anthony Orsini while he was working as a neonatologist at Goryeb Children’s Hospital of Morristown Medical Center. Dr. Orsini has created a remarkably effective communication model that transforms the way physicians interact with patients and their families.
The model is a hands on learning approach where physicians and healthcare workers participate in improvisational role-playing sessions with professional actors who portray patients or family members. Role-playing sessions are watched remotely by BBN Certified Instructors.
Immediately following the role-playing session, participating health care professionals are given the opportunity to review their videotaped session with BBN certified instructors. During this part of the process, the participating doctors go through their very own important self-review and self-reflection. BBN instructors make comments and suggestions at the end of the process to enhance and provide support on how the doctor could have communicated more compassionately or clearly.
Think about it. Doctors are trained in the area of science and research, not in the world of emotions and the psychology of effective, compassionate and empathetic communication.
From what Dr. Orsini shared with me, I learned that there are few, if any courses that teach new interns how to share difficult and emotionally charged news with patients. He developed the BBN model in the hopes of transforming both residents and experienced physicians communicative style.
While having to deliver bad news occurs on a daily basis for many doctors, only ten percent of them receive formal training on how to approach the situation. As a result, physicians sometimes withhold valuable information about the state of the patient or don’t express the gravity of the situation in an empathetic manner. This can cause the family to experience more pain from the lack of emotion used by the physician, resulting in a worse situation for everyone.
“Breaking bad news is already troubling enough and if communicated in the wrong manner, pain and shock can occur,” said Dr. Orisini. “The goal of the BBN Foundation is to train physicians so that we can alleviate the possibility of pain and allow for the chance of healing.”
I was very moved by Dr. Orsini’s commitment to this program and his passion for expanding it across the country. The BBN program cost of training per physician is only $350.00, a modest per physician cost, which will have a lasting impact on thousands of patients. If your local facility is a teaching hospital, I would ask you to please share your interest in the BBN Model with them, and ask them to contact the foundation to bring the program to their facility.
This October 28, 2014, the BBN Foundation will be hosting their second annual “The Moment of Truth” Gala located at The Wilshire Grand Hotel in West Orange, New Jersey. The gala acts as the foundation’s primary fundraising event, which also includes a silent auction with outstanding items. All proceeds from the gala will provide funding to build educational programs that promote effective and compassionate communication between healthcare professionals, patients and families. For more information on the BBN Foundation or the BBN Model, visit www.bbnfoundation.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: This is NOT a paid sponsored post. I only write about organizations that I have personal experience with. I’ve spoken with Dr. Orsini and he’s passionately committed to this program; he doesn’t make money from BBN, the fee to run the sessions are simply to cover program costs.