Breaking the news of a diagnosis of motor neurone disease: A national survey of neurologists' perspectives

J Neurol Sci. 2016 Aug 15:367:368-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2016.06.033. Epub 2016 Jun 16.


Communication of the diagnosis of MND is daunting for patients and neurologists. This study aimed to establish a knowledge base of current Australian practice of breaking the news of an MND diagnosis, to assess the neurologists' educational and training needs and to compare the feedback obtained from neurologists and patients to international practice guidelines. An anonymous survey of neurologists was undertaken in Australia (2014). 73 neurologists responded to this national survey (50.4% response rate). Nearly 70% of neurologists reported finding it "somewhat to very difficult" communicating the MND diagnosis, and 65% reported feeling moderate to high stress and anxiety at the delivery of diagnosis. Compared to international guidelines, areas for improvement include length of consultation, period of follow up and referral to MND associations. Two-thirds of neurologists were interested in further training to respond to patient's emotions and development of best practice guidelines. This is the first national study to provide a comprehensive insight into the process of delivering the MND diagnosis from the neurologists' perspective and to make comparisons with those of patients and the international guidelines. This study forms the basis for developing protocols to improve communication skills and alleviate the emotional burden associated with breaking bad news.

Keywords: Best practice protocols; Breaking bad news; Education; Empathy; MND diagnosis; MND multidisciplinary clinics; MND/ALS; Training.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Australia
  • Empathy
  • Family / psychology
  • Feedback, Psychological
  • Female
  • Health Communication* / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neuron Disease / diagnosis*
  • Motor Neuron Disease / psychology*
  • Neurologists / education
  • Neurologists / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires