Published:
- by Mount Saint Mary College
Susan LaRocco, dean of Mount Saint Mary College’s School of Nursing, recently presented a live webinar for the American Nurses Association Early Career Series titled “How to Ace Difficult Conversations with Patients, Families, and Co-workers.”
 
The talk was viewed by nearly 6,000 people.
 
Everyone engages in difficult conversations from time to time, where they may feel uncomfortable or fearful of the outcome. For healthcare professionals, these kinds of conversations may need to happen on a daily basis. For example, patients and their families may feel “anger at perceived lack of care or long wait times for care,” LaRocco explained. And like any workplace, there may be issues between co-workers.
 
Nevertheless, there are clear reasons to learn how to have such conversations, LaRocco notes. These include patient safety and satisfaction, improving the professional working environment, decreasing stress and burnout, and professional growth.
 
In any difficult conversation, said LaRocco, it’s important to do the following:
  • Use clear concise language
  • Do not interrupt
  • If you are interrupted, calmly say “please let me finish”
  • Listen to the other party rather than plan what you will say next
Following these guidelines can help make a challenging conversation easier. And once the discussion has ended, LaRocco added, remember to keep it confidential.
 
LaRocco, a longtime member of the American Nurses Association, received her bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree in Nursing Administration from Boston University. Her PhD is from the University of Massachusetts Boston where she received the Brenda S. Cherry Doctoral Dissertation Award. In addition, she holds an MBA from New York University. She is a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) and has certification as a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL).
 
LaRocco’s research interests include the recruitment and retention of men in the nursing field. As a Fulbright Scholar during academic year 2014-15, she taught qualitative research and professional writing at the University of Jordan in Amman, while also researching where male Jordanian nurses fit in to their profession and culture.
 
She has published extensively, including clinical articles in Nursing and the American Journal of Nursing. In 2010, she received the Mary Ann Garrigan Award from the Theta-at-Large Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International, and in 2014, she was inducted as a Fellow in the National Academies of Practice.
 
Mount Nursing students consistently score higher than the state average on the NCLEX-RN test, and they benefit from state-of-the-art simulation labs and learning resources, clinical relationships with dozens of area hospitals, and passionate faculty. Mount-trained nurses have become known locally and beyond for their compassionate and skillful care.