Asking ourselves and others the right questions: A vehicle for understanding, resolving, and preventing conflicts between clinicians and patients and families

Cynthia H Rushton, Marilee Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The critical care setting is inevitably fraught with fear, tension, and anxiety; therefore, the potential for conflict between clinicians, patients, and families is always present. This means that communication and decision making in the critical care setting will always be challenging. Despite this, there are practical opportunities to recognize and intervene in situations in which the tenor of the dialogue and relationship has deteriorated. This column has presented an additional perspective to bring to working with distressed families in life and death situations.Understanding the impact of the Judger mindset on patients and families, as well as for clinicians, can increase understanding and empathy for everyone and help interrupt cycles of reactivity. Learning to ask Switching questions and reset to the Learner mindset can transform difficult situations in effective and compassionate ways. This information about the Learner mindset and asking Learner questions can help shift the energy, focus, and dialogue to a place of possibilities and partnership to support the integrity of the critical care situation and everyone involved in it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-300
Number of pages6
JournalAACN Advanced Critical Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care
  • Emergency Medicine

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