Chapter 2: Strategies to assess and engage with families

Answering questions

“People can deal with what they know; they have a hard time dealing with what they don’t”. – ICU Nurse. 

Below are strategies for answering questions clearly and candidly. Click each strategy on the left to view more information.

Start with getting their understanding.

Ask families what they understand about the situation. You can then clarify, correct and supply information to help demystify the situation.

Give clear and accurate information.

Determine which and how much information the family can take in and understand.

Always be clear and honest.

Periods of ambiguity, such as waiting for a test result, can be very difficult for families. Very often, people will imagine worst case scenarios. Providing clear, honest information will help to reduce their anxiety.

Be realistic.

You may hesitate to share difficult information out of fear that you’ll hurt the family. Be as compassionate as possible. Although you may be the bearer of unwelcome information, you’re not responsible for what has happened, and it is not always possible to prevent psychological trauma for families. This is part of acknowledging the limits of the situation and our influence over what happens.

Click on each item for more detail