This past Tuesday, I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to Dr. Jessie Gruman, Ph.D., the President of the Center for the Advancement of Health as well as a recent addition to the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. Dr. Gruman’s new book, AfterShock, deals with the very real issue of having your life turned upside down by getting unfavorable news from your physician or having a loved one receive the news and therefore being affected as well.

After an introduction, Dr. Gruman began addressing an attentive audience which truly wanted to gain insight on dealing with these life altering circumstances. She then gave a brief synopsis of each chapter, creating a great personal connectivity with the audience. We were then given 8 tenets to keep in mind when going through these trying times – 4 for those who have personally received the bad news and then 4 for those who know a loved one going through a medical crisis.

If You Have Received Bad News:

  1. You will not always feel like this (depressed, despondent, generally stressed, etc.) – as you get more information, you are able to look at the big picture, beyond your initial emotions. Dr. Gruman mentions that you just need to get through the first 24 hours.
  2. Be aware of your initial sense of urgency. Understand that there is never only one option. Get a second opinion. Don’t be in a hurry to sign up for the first solution that is presented to you.
  3. Choose who you want to involve in your situation. Be careful who you tell about the news, you may regret it later on.
  4. Hope is a gift. Remember it’s ok to not feel like everything is alright – make sure to lean on your support system.

If You Know Someone Who Has Received Bad News:

  1. Acknowledge the Situation. Make sure and let the person know that you will keep them in your thoughts and are sorry this has happened to them. The worst thing you can do is to ignore that it has happened and pretend nothing has changed.
  2. Help them to Preserve their Privacy. Please remember that if the person has confided their situation with you, that it does not mean you can tell others. Get their permission before talking to others.
  3. Help them to Retain their Autonomy. Make sure they have the best information/advice and then love them no matter what their decision. They are still individuals and can make their own choices.
  4. Ensure that they are More than their Disease. Pretty self explanatory – ensure that they keep their dignity. It’s alright to laugh, smile and have fun; life is for living!

Finally, there was a Q&A session in which a question regarding becoming informed consumers piqued my interest. Dr. Gruman mentioned that we as consumers are expected to know and understand alot of information, especially regarding health and medicine. She mentioned that since we don’t get told much, it’s a good idea to have a few really good tools and resources. Apart from having a good physician that you can trust, it’s important to have a good sense of where to go for reliable health information. I thought this was especially good advice in the age of user generated content and Web 2.0. There are so many places on the Web where “health information” might be placed, but you need reliable information in order to make good decisions.

Look for an upcoming post on the importance of accurate health information online!