Implementing a Bereavement Follow-up Program in a Hospital Emergency Department
Keywords:emergency departments, death, family, bereavement, social work, hospital
In recognition of the fact that traumatic or sudden deaths in the hospital emergency department can be a distressing experience for families, we piloted a follow-up bereavement service for relatives confronted with an unexpected death. Bereaved families were forwarded a personalised condolence card including the contact details of a social worker to allow them an opportunity to discuss any outstanding concerns about the death. Referral options were provided to relatives requiring ongoing support. Data were collected on the number and nature of follow-up calls, including requests for additional information about the death. Lessons learnt from the pilot were that assessments of each family’s situation and the circumstances of the death are crucial before initiating contact. Interpersonal violence and complex family dynamics are compounding factors that may contraindicate follow-up. Rather than adopt a standardised approach, bereavement follow-up in the emergency department needs to be tailored to the circumstances of each family.
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