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Physician interactions with families and caregivers after a patient's death: current practices and proposed changes.

Ellison NM, et al. J Palliat Med. 2002.


There are little objective data concerning physician bereavement or other supportive interactions with the families and caregivers of deceased patients. We surveyed the physician staff of a large tertiary rural referral center in central Pennsylvania. We asked about current practices in attending former patients' funerals, family condolence visits, letter or phone contacts, as well as the desire of physicians to participate in these activities. The database consisted of 143 questionnaires that were returned from 286 physicians initially mailed the survey. Only 119 of the 143 had experienced patient deaths in their practices. Most of these 119 physicians did not participate in any type of planned contact with a former patient's family after the patient's death. Phone calls were used 39.6% after an inpatient death, and condolence notes were sent by about 40% of physicians. There was no correlation between these activities and number of deaths in the practice per year or if death occurred as an inpatient or outpatient. Physicians practicing at the medical center more than 10 years were more likely to contact the grieving family or caregivers. There was significant desire by the physicians to have an easy way to identify deceased patients' caregivers or loved ones, to have condolence notes available for the physicians' use, and to have bereavement service information sent to the families or caregivers.


11839227 [Indexed for MEDLINE]

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