Skip to main content

Table 4 SPIKES tool in the disaster setting

From: How to talk with dying patients and their families after disasters and humanitarian crises: a review of available tools and guides for disaster responders

  Acronym Description of steps Example phrasing
S Setting up the interview --Arrange for some privacy
--Involve family members (if desired)
--Sit down
--Make connection with the patient
--Manage time constraints and interruptions
P Assessing the patient’s perception --Ask, tell, ask (before discussing medical findings, use open-ended questions to understand the patient/family’s perception of their situation)
--Allows clinician to correct misinformation and tailor the bad news to where the patient/family’s understanding is
--“What is your sense of how your mother is doing?”
I Obtaining the patient’s invitation --Ask permission before giving the news
--Assess through a cultural guide /interpreter/ family members how much a patient wants to know
--“Would it be okay if I talk to you about what’s happened with your mother’s injuries?”
-- “Is there anyone else who should be here for this conversation?”
K Giving knowledge and information --Give a warning shot
--Give key information in concise, simple language
-Stop talking
--“Unfortunately I have some difficult news to tell you.”
--“Because of the damage to your leg, it will require amputation above the knee.”
E Addressing the patient’s emotion with empathic responses --Allow for silence
--Name the emotion
--Align with the patient
--“You seem devastated to hear this.”
--“I really wish we had a treatment to save your father’s life.”
S Strategy and summary --Map out what is most important to the patient
--Make a recommendation
--“Given this hard situation, what’s most important right now?”
--“In light of what you told me about your mother not wanting to suffer, I recommend that we give her medication to treat her pain and focus on her comfort.”
  1. (Source: adapted from Baile et al. 2000)