Physicians at the Crossroad of Prognosis and Faith: Practical Help Communicating with Patients and Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic


North Florida


North Florida Regional Medical Center

Document Type


Publication Date



COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, pandemic, prognosis, palliative, death


Palliative Care | Virus Diseases


Physicians will ultimately face the necessary but unpleasant task of caring for a dying patient at some point in their careers. Communicating with patients or their families during such dire times is very important especially when the patient or family members have unrealistic expectations. Herein, we have highlighted practical suggestions which if applied can prevent unnecessary draining encounters with patients and families; for example, incorporating ancillary staff such as palliative and pastoral care into the care team. We have also proposed a new concept of ‘physician optimism’. Based on this concept, the physician can be classified as a pessimist or an optimist with realistic or unrealistic expectations and communicate to patients with or without requisite empathy. To ensure the best outcomes, we conclude that physicians must be realistic optimists who always communicate with empathy. Unrealistic optimism, no matter how well-intentioned, is deceiving to patients and their families will never allow a culture of trust.

Publisher or Conference

Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives