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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Physicians' experiences and perspectives regarding follow-up meetings with parents after a child's death in the pediatric intensive care unit

Kathleen L Meert, Susan Eggly, John Berger, Jerry Zimmerman, K J S Anand, Christopher J L Newth, Rick Harrison, Joseph Carcillo, J Michael Dean, Douglas F Willson, Carol Nicholson
Pediatric Critical Care Medicine 2011, 12 (2): e64-8
20581729

OBJECTIVE: To investigate critical care physicians' experiences and perspectives regarding follow-up meetings with parents after a child's death in the pediatric intensive care unit. Parents of children who die in the pediatric intensive care unit often desire a follow-up meeting with the physicians who cared for their child.

DESIGN: Semistructured, audio-recorded telephone interviews.

SETTING: Six clinical centers affiliated with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network.

PARTICIPANTS: Seventy critical care physicians (i.e., attendings and fellows) practicing or training at a Child Health and Human Development Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network clinical center between February 1, 2008 and June 30, 2008.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Twenty-three (33%) physicians reported never participating in a follow-up meeting with bereaved parents; 22 (31%) participated in one to five meetings; and 25 (36%) participated in more than five meetings. Of those with prior experience, 44 (94%) met with parents at the hospital and 40 (85%) met within 3 months of the death. Meeting content included discussing autopsy, parent questions, hospital course, cause of death, genetic risk, bereavement services, and legal or administrative issues; providing emotional support; and receiving parent feedback. Forty (85%) physicians perceived the meetings to be beneficial to families, and 35 (74%) to physicians. Barriers included time and scheduling, family and physician unwillingness, distance and transportation, language and cultural issues, parent anger, and lack of a system for meeting initiation and planning.

CONCLUSIONS: Critical care physicians have a wide range of experience conducting follow-up meetings with bereaved parents. Although physicians perceive benefits to follow-up meetings, barriers exist that interfere with their implementation in clinical practice.

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