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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Breaking bad news—parents' experience of learning that their child has leukaemia

J Oshea, O Smith, A O'Marcaigh, C McMahon, R Geoghegan, M Cotter
Irish Medical Journal 2007, 100 (9): 588-90
18196882
This study aimed to seek parents' experiences of how they learned their child had leukaemia and therefore identify ways of improving this process. To achieve this task a questionnaire was designed to ask parents about specific elements of the initial interview and give them opportunity to add their thoughts and feelings on the subject. All children with a diagnosis of leukaemia over an eighteen-year period were identified and parents of those children still alive were invited to partake in the study. 49 out of 50 families agreed to participate of which 35 (72%) returned completed questionnaires. The majority 29 (83%) expressed overall satisfaction. Their replies confirmed some findings of previous studies, and also offered some new insights. Examples of new findings or expansion on previous findings include observations on the presence of young children at the initial interview; the importance of the language used in conveying the diagnosis and prognostic information, and a preference for actuarial terms when discussing prognosis. Telling parents their child has leukaemia is a challenging and important task. The experience of parents gives us valuable insights into our own communication skills and highlights areas of possible improvement in this difficult area.

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