Intended for healthcare professionals
RCNi interactive learning

CPD modules

Breaking bad news

Author: Clare Warnock

Duration: 2 hours Last updated: 2021 Quality Assurance: Peer-reviewed Level: Qualified nurses, Students Language: English

Course description

The aim of this module is to increase readers' understanding of the role of the nurse in the process of breaking bad news and the factors that influence nursing care.

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Learning aims and intended outcomes

  • Understand that breaking bad news is a process, not just a single event, and that bad news refers to any information that may have a negative effect on patients' present and future
  • Describe the range of ways in which nurses can be involved in the process of breaking bad news
  • Discuss the benefits of providing patients with honest and accurate information, and state when providing such information may not be appropriate
  • Identify the challenges and difficulties that can be faced by nurses when involved in the process of breaking bad news
  • Evaluate the guidance and advice that surround breaking bad news


  • Introduction
  • What is bad news?
  • Why is breaking bad news important?
  • Why is breaking bad news difficult?
  • Guidance and advice for breaking bad news
  • Conclusions


Clare Warnock
Practice development sister, Specialist Cancer Services, Weston Park Hospital, Sheffield.


Please note that information provided by RCNi Learning is not sufficient to ensure competence in the skill. Assessment of competence should take place in line with local practice. Practice should always align with local protocols and procedures, latest guidelines and any regulatory code. All modules should currently be viewed together with available national and local Covid-19 guidelines. For advice, go to


  • Introduction
  • What is bad news?
  • Why is breaking bad news important?
  • Why is breaking bad news difficult?
  • Guidance and advice for breaking bad news
  • Conclusions

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