Communicating Effectively

  • Jessica M. McFarlinEmail author
  • Joshua S. Barclay


High quality communication is a key component in the care of patients with neurologic illness. A teachable skill just like other procedures in medicine, good communication can reduce patient and family distress as well as reduce clinician burnout.

Learning and practicing high quality communication skills is fundamental throughout the course of an illness. Patients and families desire excellent communication from the time a clinician makes a diagnosis through assisting patients and families with changing social roles and complex treatment decisions and when they consider choices near the end of life.

This chapter outlines key principles of good communication that are fundamental to providing high quality palliative care. Using clinical cases, we discuss some general and three core communication skills that all neurologists should aim to master; these include (1) delivering serious news and attending to emotions with empathy; (2) discussing prognosis and understanding the informational needs of the patient; (3) exploring goals of care by mapping patient’s values and preferences with both patient’s and their surrogate decision-makers.


Palliative care Communication Empathy Active listening Shared decision making 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Palliative and Supportive Care, Department of NeurologyUniversity of Kentucky, College of MedicineLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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