Heart attack

Talking to doctors & nurses

Someone who has a heart attack may know little about what is happening and may need to take in a lot of information in a short time. Good communication and exchange of information can make a difference to how patients react and their ability to cope.

Medical schools now routinely teach medical communication, and many people described excellent communication with their doctors (see 'Getting information'). One man found it important that doctors had explained everything they were doing and why they were doing it.  

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Another had been grateful that the A&E consultant had squatted down to his level when he was explaining what had happened to him and what treatment and tests were required. A third describes how the way his consultant spoke to him gave him confidence.

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One man felt that communication was made much easier because he could have a one to one chat with the consultant' he felt comfortable asking questions and the consultant had the time to answer them. Many people remarked how good the cardiac nurses were at explaining procedures and giving information.

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In contrast, others would have liked more information and said that doctors' use of medical jargon and terminology impeded understanding.

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One man found out from other patients what an angiogram was, and would have worried less if doctors had explained the procedure to him when they first told him he would need one.

One woman thought that bedside manner could be improved if doctors sat down beside patients when talking to them. A cheerful, friendly approach also made a difference to several patients. One man, who had a severe heart attack, describes the different approaches taken by two consultants and the effect it had on him and his family.

Communication difficulties can add to the stress patients may experience in hospital. One woman explained how she dealt with conflicting instructions by her doctors. Another received different information from the nurses and the doctors, which left her wondering who she should believe. One man was not given adequate information because of the poor handover between two nurses a couple of days after he was in hospital.

When describing communication with their GPs, people clearly valued being given time to talk about how they felt and knowing that their problems were being appreciated. They also liked a doctor who 'called a spade a spade'.

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Last reviewed March 2013.

Last updated August 2010.

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