FINDING THE WORDS
By Kristy Jenkins, MS
Even though up to 25% of pregnancies will end in miscarriage, the medical community continues to struggle to find the right words in delivering this delicate news to its patients. Maria Brann, Ph.D, Jennifer Bute, Ph.D., and Susanna Foxworthy Scott have conducted further research into this phenomena with their latest article published in Qualitative Health Research titled Qualitative Assessment of Bad News Delivery Practices during Miscarriage Diagnosis. Experts in the field of effective communication surrounding reproductive loss, Drs. Brann and Bute have repeatedly found that “women’s distress is compounded by ineffective communication with providers, who are usually not trained to deliver bad news using patient-centered dialogue” (Brann, Bute & Scott, 2020).
On October 15th, Life Perspectives conducted a live webinar with Drs. Brann and Bute to dive further into their research findings and glean wisdom to improve their own Reproductive Grief Care courses for clinicians. The doctors concluded that many healthcare providers exacerbated women’s shock and grief when delivering the news of a miscarriage and found that this was due to a lack of training in sensitive news delivery. The research participants (all women) reported that healthcare providers communicated the bad news poorly through several unintended harmful statements or actions and gave feedback for patient-centered improvements such as:
- Refrain from the use of medical jargon
- Demonstrate empathy and check for understanding
- Do not use graphic or emotionally charged language
- Avoid rushing the decision; give mom some time to process the shock
- Refer to the fetus as a baby
- Respond compassionately to patient cues of distress and be a good listener
- Allow for silence; moms need a few minutes to gather their thoughts
This latest research supports previous research in the field and highlights the need for healthcare providers, therapists, community leaders, and anyone coming in contact with someone who has experienced reproductive loss, to learn how to better communicate in a compassionate way to reduce harm. Life Perspectives provides such evidence-based best practices training and has partnered with Drs. Brann and Bute to reach more people who want to improve their communication skills around reproductive loss. The following is taught by Life Perspectives and can help you be a compassionate communicator:
- Simple statements such as “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “I’m so sorry you are going through this” can be significantly comforting.
- Take the time to listen, or simply be with them if words aren’t forthcoming. Your presence can be a great gift.
- Give permission by assuring them that there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to grieve or process the news of a miscarriage, that everyone is different.
In honor of October being Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month, LifePerspectives.com is offering Reproductive Loss & Grief TOOLKITS for you, family and friends, men, healthcare providers, and others on their homepage. For Continuing Education on effective, evidence-based communication skills surrounding reproductive loss, visit LifePerspectives.com and click on Courses to access the On-Demand interview with Drs. Brann and Bute as well as official course listings.