Death notification education for paramedics: Past, present and future directions


Objective:To explore paramedics' experiences with death notification education.Methods:Four focus group sessions attended by paramedics were mediated by a professional facilitator mn urban and urban/rural areas of Ontario, Canada. Paramedics were asked about their experiences with death notification education and what format and content of education they would like. Transcripts were analysed using the constant comparative method. Themes were generated inductively.Results:Twenty primary care paramedics and eight advanced care paramedics with mean experiences of 8.5 and 21.5 years respectively, participated. They reported minimal death notification education in their initial and professional education. They support education in college programmes, new paramedic orientation, and through mentoring. Paramedics learn to communicate death notifications by observing others and by trial and error. They want to learn about this topic through evidence-based continuing education (CE) sessions delivered by a trained facilitator or through online independent study. Experiential methods incorporating role-play and feedback are supported. A trained peer or health care professional with similar experiences would be best to teach paramedics about death notification. Paramedics want to learn about the practical aspects of communicating death notifications, managing the reactions of the bereaved, the cultural and religious aspects of death, as well as their personal reactions to death. Paramedics’ attitudes to death notification education are influenced by their work environment.Conclusions:There is a lack of formal death notification education for paramedics. Formal education should be implemented to reduce the stress of communicating death notifications for the paramedic and for the bereaved.

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