Bereavement programs - history and structure
In 1988, a group of nurses at LLUMC felt the need for bereavement follow-up for families who experienced a perinatal or neonatal death. A committee was established and, using the national Resolve Through Sharing (RTS) program, bereavement care was begun. The program currently has 40 trained grief support personnel from a variety of disciplines who are active in providing support to families--both at the time of death, and in the months to follow. In a two-day training class, these individuals are taught how to communicate with families and are instructed in practical skills to use at the time of death.
Shortly after the RTS program began functioning, nurses in the pediatric areas expressed a need for a similar program. There was no known national program dealing with pediatric death, so the HOPES (Healing of Parents Experiencing Sorrow) program was developed here at LLUMC. This program was launched in 1991 and has 35 active grief support personnel.
The next areas assessed were medical/surgical and ICU units. Since the families of patients in these areas needed follow-up as well, the CARE (Comfort and Recovery Experiences) program was begun. Since these areas have the highest number of deaths in the hospital, this program has kept its 30 support personnel busy following families since 1992.
The final program is SEASONS (Sensitive Emergency Approach to Significant Others' Needs in Sorrow). This is particularly geared to sudden and traumatic death and is based in the emergency department. There are 12 trained individuals who have followed families since 1995.
The four programs work together closely and are guided by the grief coordinator committee. This group receives direction from the coordinator of nursing spiritual care and development. The grief coordinator committee is made up of the nine program coordinators from RTS, HOPES, CARE, and SEASONS and nursing educators from Staff Development. The coordinators are paid for one shift each month to complete their duties. Their responsibilities include assigning families to grief support personnel, stocking supplies, preparing educational materials for their personnel, monitoring follow-up, and attending the grief coordinator committee meeting.
The grief support personnel are all volunteers. They are paid for the two days of training that they receive, but they get no compensation for the extra work that they do. Each person is asked to follow six families per year. This involves sending a card to the family immediately following the death. A letter follows a few weeks later, and then a telephone call is made to check on the family. This phone call is not intended to be grief therapy, but simply to assess the family and see if any referrals need to be made.
LLUMC is a leader among hospitals in the nation in the area of comprehensive bereavement care. We are frequently called as a resource for other hospitals interested in bereavement care, and we are proud of our record of service to the community.