Together for Short Lives
Call the Helpline 0808 8088 100

Health care professionals’ grief after the death of a child

Journal title
Paediatrics & child health
Publication year
Plante, J.; Cyr, C.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the intensity of grief experienced by health care professionals (HPs) after the death of a child, to explore factors associated with a memorable death (defined as an unforgettable child’s death that has touched them in their career) and to identify the needs of HPs. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was performed to assess emotional reactions, coping strategies and perceived needs of paediatric HPs in a general hospital. RESULTS: One hundred one HPs (46 nurses, 22 paediatric physicians, 11 paediatric residents, 13 respiratory therapists and nine ‘others’) completed the questionnaire. The level of grief experienced by HPs after a memorable death was intense. Respiratory therapists showed the highest mean (+/- SD) intensity of grief after a memorable death versus other HPs, as measured by the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief (TRIG) (29+/-15 versus 16+/-14; P=0.002). Younger HPs (20 to 25 years of age) reported higher early grief intensity than older ones (older than 50 years of age) (22+/-16 versus 10+/-8; P=0.01). There was no significant association between the TRIG score and an HP being a parent, having received palliative care training or the length of his/her relationship with the child and family. Seventy per cent of HPs spoke with their colleagues after the death of a child and 48% with family and friends. Many participants (37%) believed that this social support helped them the most. CONCLUSION: Grief after a child’s death is intense for HPs. This emotional intensity and difference between professions raises issues about the emotional support received following the death of a patient.

Research abstracts