Death is not a rare event in healthcare settings. Yet, healthcare providers receive little training on how to inform family members when a loved one has died. How a family is informed and the information given can affect the health and well-being of the bereaved family for months and years.
Unexpected death results from a variety of causes, including accidents, suicides, homicides, as well as medical mishaps, disasters, and terrorism. Such deaths are shocking to the family and are likely to be more stressful if the deceased is a child, the death was violent or disfiguring, or the deceased suffered before death.
“Healthcare providers cannot lessen the loss of a loved one, but they can provide family members with clear, concise, and accurate information about the death, and access to helpful resources, in a way that is professionally responsible, empathic, and culturally sensitive. The scope of responsibilities for healthcare providers regarding death notification varies depending upon the situation, the institution in which they work, and the involvement of ancillary services that share in the death notification process.
The following guidelines review the range of the tasks of healthcare providers in notifying a family of a death.
The educational intervention GRIEV_ING is targeted at Emergency Medicine physicians but can be adapted for other audiences to improve death notification delivery.
Death notification training program developed by the FBI and Pennsylvania State University for Law Enforcement.
Recommended procedures for death notification.
A helpful form to fill out when preparing for a death notification.