Paramedics' experiences with death notification: a qualitative study

Objective To explore paramedics’ experiences and coping strategies with death notification in the field.MethodsUrban and urban/rural paramedics participated in four focus groups across Ontario, Canada.They were asked about their experiences communicating death notifications and the support they received. Transcripts were analysed using the constant comparative method. Themes were generated inductively.ResultsTwenty-eight paramedics participated. Four themes emerged: the practical aspects of deathnotification, how paramedics acknowledge the emotional toll, how they manage the emotional toll, and the support mechanisms they used. Communicating a death notification is stressful and paramedics’ personal attitudes to death influence how they communicate a notification. Switching roles from clinician to supporter is challenging. Deaths that are unexpected, traumatic, obvious, involve children, with which the paramedic identifies, or are the paramedic’s first experience are especiallystressful. Paramedics receive support by talking to peers and using informal support networks. They prefer support from people who have had similar experiences.ConclusionParamedics’ experiences with death notification are stressful, challenging, andrewarding. More formal support for paramedics is necessary, especially when the nature of the death is distressing. Our study suggests that further training is required to increase paramedics’ comfort with this challenging communication.

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