Current Content
Volume 36 — Number 4
July/August 2010

Bereavement Debriefing Sessions: An Intervention to Support Health Care Professionals in Managing Their Grief after the Death of a Patient
Elizabeth A. Keene, Nancy Hutton, Barbara Hall, and Cynda Rushton

Health care professionals experience grief when caring for children with life-threatening conditions. Harriet Lane Compassionate Care, the pediatric palliative care program of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, created an action plan to support health care professionals; one intervention - the bereavement debriefing session - was specifically aimed at providing emotional support and increasing one’s ability to manage grief. A structured format for conducting bereavement debriefing sessions was developed, and 113 sessions were held in a three-year period; data were collected to capture themes discussed. Bereavement debriefing sessions were conducted most frequently after unexpected deaths or deaths of long-term patients. Though attendance included all disciplines, nurses attended the sessions most often. Self-report evaluation forms revealed that health care professionals found the sessions helpful. Bereavement debriefing sessions can be one aspect of an effective approach to supporting health care professionals in managing their grief in caring for children with life-threatening conditions.