Bereavement support and COVID-19: recommendations for hospital clinicians

1st July 2020

Deaths due to COVID-19 are associated with risk factors which can lead to prolonged grief disorder, post-traumatic stress, and other poor bereavement outcomes among relatives, as well as moral injury and distress in frontline staff.  Researchers led by former Cicely Saunders International Fellow Dr Lucy Selman, have produced evidence-based recommendations and resources for hospital clinicians. The aim of the guidance is to mitigate poor bereavement outcomes and provide support for staff.

Recommendations include advance care planning; proactive, sensitive, and regular communication with family members alongside accurate information provision; enabling family members to say goodbye in person where possible; supporting virtual communication; providing excellent symptom management and emotional and spiritual support; and providing and/or sign-posting to bereavement services.

The authors say that to mitigate effects of this emotionally challenging work on staff, they recommend an organisational and systemic approach which includes access to informal and professional support.

Selman LE, Chao D, Sowden R, Marshall S, Chamberlain C, Koffman J. Bereavement Support on the Frontline of COVID-19: Recommendations for Hospital Clinicians. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. Published:May 03, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2020.04.024