Approaching difficult conversations

Ms Sarah Coulson1

1Tasmanian Health Service, Launceston, Australia


Having the courage to approach difficult conversations is a corner stone of quality patient care and leadership.

A difficult conversation can be any situation where there is a gap between the needs, wants, opinions or perceptions of the participants, with the actual or perceived involvement of a range of human feelings and emotions.

When we can get to the source of the tension in difficult conversations with kindness and respect, we grow as individuals and improve how we relate to each other.  The more we unpack these conversations and practice them, the more we can take on bigger more difficult, complex conversations.

Working through difficult conversations in a prepared, kind and respectful way uses our time, energy and resources in a more meaningful way. Enhancing the wellbeing of our patients, our colleagues and our teams and has a positive rippling effects to our broader community.


Sarah Coulson is a Clinical Nurse Consultant based at the WP Holman Clinic in Launceston. She currently coordinates Oncology clinical trials, projects and research at the Northern Cancer Service. Sarah has a Master of Advanced Practice – Nurse Practitioner in Palliative Care, a Graduate Diploma in Oncology Nursing and is a graduate of the 2018 Tasmania Leaders Program. Sarah is passionate about healthy, happy, productive teams and communities, and believes the most precious resources in health care are the people. Sarah is a strong advocate for strengthening the capacity of all Tasmania’s to live healthy, impowered, meaningful lives.