Tinsley Claire Douglas, Caitlyn May, Karin Dent, John C. Carey, Janessa Mladucky
Difficult news has been described as any news that adversely and seriously affects an individual's view of their future. Research in oncology genetic counseling demonstrated that individuals do not prefer in-person or telephone delivery of their genetic test results. However, in the prenatal setting, there is limited research examining how patients prefer news related to their pregnancies be disclosed. This study aimed to assess the experiences and preferences of prenatal patients who received difficult news by telephone. A semi-structured interview guide was developed to assess patients' personal definitions of difficult news and their experiences receiving the news by telephone. Fifteen patients seen prenatally by a genetic counselor were interviewed. Interviews were transcribed and consensus-coded, using inductive content analysis to identify several themes. The most common definition of difficult news included unexpected, life-changing, or devastating information. Participants described aspects of their experience and strategies employed by their genetic counselor that was helpful when receiving the news, which was found to align with the SPIKES protocol, a six-step process of delivering difficult news to patients. Additional techniques that participants identified as beneficial and satisfactory included the genetic counselor's use of empathy, non-directiveness, and continuity and coordination of care. Participants also provided recommendations for improvement, including a discussion of the mode of result disclosure during pretest counseling, an option to follow up with their genetic counselor, personalized resources, and a summary of the results call. The findings of this study demonstrate that a patient-centered approach is preferred by patients who receive difficult news by telephone in the prenatal setting. Patients' identification of beneficial communication techniques and suggestions for improvement can be implemented by any healthcare provider responsible for delivering difficult news to prenatal patients.
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