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Cella
11-09-2009, 04:55 AM
When someone dies in a hospital, say and ER where the family is waiting to hear from the DR., isn't there someone who comes out and discusses the next steps with the family?

Would this person be called a bereavement counselor?

Thank you! :)

Cella

mscelina
11-09-2009, 04:58 AM
When I was in that situation, a chaplain came out to discuss matters with us. I would assume (Catholic hospital) that he was a trained counselor if he was put in that sort of position.

sheadakota
11-09-2009, 04:59 AM
I'm not sure, but at the hospital I work at, the Doctor tells the family about the patient's passing and we call the chaplain on call to come and talk to the family. I suppose there could be a breavment counselor, but we don't have one.

Cella
11-09-2009, 05:01 AM
so the chaplain goes over transferring the body to a funeral home, crematorium, etc. with the family, then?

mscelina
11-09-2009, 05:12 AM
Ours did, but as I said it was a Catholic hospital which is, somehow, where all of my relatives end up dying.

StephanieFox
11-09-2009, 05:13 AM
Some hospitals have social workers to do this.

Don Allen
11-09-2009, 05:16 AM
IIt's different at different hospitals, sometimes they just ask you if the deceased had pre-made arrangements or if you have some funeral homes in mind, sometimes they will you give you information on places that have left info-packets with the hospital, some will have a counselor on staff.

jclarkdawe
11-09-2009, 06:00 AM
What does your story need? Some people need help with this, some people can find a funeral home on their own. I wouldn't have seen a bereavement counselor when my mother died, but the nurse and I decided my father needed one.

When my grandmother died, the hospital spent half an hour finding someone to tell me. (I wasn't there at the time and arrived before they had removed her body from the room.) I already had it figured out, and greeted the appropriate person with, "My grandmother is dead, isn't she?" Didn't help her presentation, as she responded, "We don't we sit down?" She wanted me to be suffering and I knew my grandmother was on the way out.

Other people go to pieces and have no idea what to do. So, the question really here is what does your story need and is it creditable? I should mention that funeral home choice is not a big deal, as all bodies go to the morgue to wait until someone comes to collect them. And since the dead aren't in a rush and don't complain, it might be a couple of days. And if no one shows up in a while, the morgue will call the family to find out what to do.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Cella
11-09-2009, 06:06 AM
Ah, thank you everyone.

It's a small part at the begining of my story, but I want to it to be accurate, of course.

The MC's mother ODs on heroine, is rushed to the ER. He's waiting for a short while in the waiting room until the Dr. tells her there wasn't anything they could do. ...

Which brings me to ..... after the Dr. walks away....now what?

your answers have all helped :) Thank you!

Puma
11-09-2009, 06:09 AM
When my mother died in the wee hours of the night, someone from the night staff of the intensive care unit came out to tell us. Of course, we had been called to the hospital and told by one of the doctors when we got there that there wasn't anything that could be done. They explained what would happen in her dying process - and then we waited for it all to happen. No chaplain, no grievance counselor. After she died I told one of the nurses what funeral home to contact. We all held ourselves together very well (until we got home). Puma

katiemac
11-09-2009, 08:07 AM
When someone dies in a hospital, say and ER where the family is waiting to hear from the DR., isn't there someone who comes out and discusses the next steps with the family?

Would this person be called a bereavement counselor?

Thank you! :)


Social worker. She met us at the doors of the emergency ward, took us into a "family waiting room" and then left us there until the doctor came in. She stayed with us while the doctor did his spiel, then when he left she stayed to discuss the next steps. I don't remember everything she said she mentioned the holidays would be difficult, and down the road hospice centers or other grievance counselors might be helpful. I'm pretty sure the only time she left was when she called the priest, and then left us alone when the priest came, except when she took us to the emergency ward so the priest could deliver a prayer. He left, and the social worker stayed until we decided it was time to go.


so the chaplain goes over transferring the body to a funeral home, crematorium, etc. with the family, then?

She asked if we had a funeral home in mind. We didn't. We got out the phone book until we recognized one. I made some calls that night but I didn't have to make that one. I'm pretty sure we just told the funeral home who/where/what and they took care of everything else.

ColoradoGuy
11-09-2009, 08:13 AM
I'm a physician who now and then has to tell a family their child has died. I always do it myself. I then do many of the things Katie mentions. Often there is a chaplain on the scene, too, since they are on call to respond to critical situations or are already physically in the building.

I know of hospitals that have bereavement councilors, but typically they help families afterward.

Cella
11-09-2009, 08:15 AM
I'm a physician who now and then has to tell a family their child has died. I always do it myself. Every other physician I know also is the first to give the news. Often there is a chaplain on the scene, too, since they are on call to respond to critical situations or are already physically in the building.

I know of hospitals who have bereavement councilors, but typically they help families afterward.


Oh my. I can't imagine how hard that must be.....

JoNightshade
11-09-2009, 08:17 AM
I haven't had this experience yet, but I've been "intimate" with two hospitals recently to decide where I want to have the baby. I've been inundated with information in flyer, booklet, and pamphlet form. I imagine that whatever person handles the situation (counselor, chaplain, whatever) they would have lots of print information on hand that would guide a person through the process. Something along the lines of, "My loved one is gone... now what?"

ColoradoGuy
11-09-2009, 08:20 AM
Oh my. I can't imagine how hard that must be.....
It's not my favorite thing, of course, but I've found over the years that the experience is as important to me as it is to the families. We moderns have so little direct experience with death. That's not necessarily a good thing.

katiemac
11-09-2009, 08:24 AM
Two more things:

The social worker asked if we wanted to see the deceased. We said yes. She took us back, we were there less than 10 seconds before turning around. We went back with her when the priest arrived.

It was the social worker's idea to call the family priest, if we wanted one. It didn't really occur to anyone to do that until she said so. We didn't know the phone number. So, again, phone book. But she made that call (I think).

Pepper
11-09-2009, 02:42 PM
Which brings me to ..... after the Dr. walks away....now what?

End scene? Seriously, you've just hit the major blow. Don't linger for too long after the event unless you have some very relevant things to show after the doctor leaves. It can be as accurate as you can possibly get it and it will still be snipped from the final draft if it doesn't carry its weight.

I could share my own experience, but it's full of memory blackouts, so I don't think I'd be able to offer more help than what has already been given.

Priene
11-09-2009, 02:52 PM
The UK term seems to be Bereavement Coordinator, Bereavement Care Coordinator or Bereavement Services Coordinator. After my father died the hospital assigned a woman who arranged a viewing of the body, explained how funeral provision worked, checked if organ harvesting was OK, told us what to do about registering the death and just generally took us through all the stuff that needed doing. She was not a chaplain, though she would have arranged a meeting with one if appropriate. I don't think you could call her a counsellor, as her job was much more concerned with organising physical tasks than dealing with the emotional side.

sheadakota
11-09-2009, 03:22 PM
One more thing- at my hospital- when someone dies less then 24 hours after admission an autopsy is required -

All we require from the family on the above questions is the name of the funeral home- the mortician will contact the family from there and the funural home helps with all the other details-

After the Doctor leaves or before- the family is asked if they want to see their loved one- usually the chaplian is there at this time to help the family.

RobinGBrown
11-09-2009, 04:31 PM
It's sounds trite but until you've lost a loved one (father in my case) it's almost impossible to convey the issue well.

Readers who identify with the issue will feel sad as they remember their own situations. Readers who have never had to deal with the problem will mostly not get it, regardless of how well written the scene is.

In my own case I received a phone call at 5AM from a nurse on the ward, I was not expecting my father to die as he was in hospital for what seemed a simple issue.

I was not offered any help from the hospital so a friend helped me deal with the technical difficulties like finding a funeral director and sorting out the paperwork. It's a supremely difficult time.

Six years later I still miss him.

jclarkdawe
11-09-2009, 05:25 PM
As an EMT, I had to deal with people who discovered their loved ones dead (whether they accepted that or not is a separate question). Our protocols enabled us to pronounce someone was dead, after consultation with the ER, in certain circumstances. The survivors ranged from expected ("George is finally at peace, isn't he?") to OMFG ("How did this happen?").

If you want the scene beyond when the doctor gives the family the news, the next step would be seeing the body. And hospitals let you go in to see the body, which will look substantially like they are alive (skin color will be off, absolutely no movement, jaw frequently hangs open, body in position of repose (moved by nurse if this doesn't happen), any equipment still with body, eyes either open or closed).

Depending on the survivor, I would encourage the survivor to talk to the dead person. There's a lot of emotions going through a person at this point, whether they are visible or not. By being able to talk with the dead person, it helps survivors address some of these emotional needs. This scene can range from a very calm goodbye to screaming at the person for abandonment.

I still remember a woman who's husband died suddenly from a heart attack around lunchtime. Granddaughter arrived home in the evening to discover his body. Woman was notified at work and raced home. We were staying on scene because the granddaughter was not doing good and the funeral home was going to be delayed.

I took the woman in to see her husband, where she lasted for about a minute before she needed to leave. After about half an hour of her sitting in the kitchen, I asked her if she wanted to talk to her husband again. I mentioned to her that it would be okay to tell him how she felt, and to yell at him for leaving her. She thought about it for a bit, went back into the bedroom and talked with her husband. After about five minutes, I could hear her telling him off for leaving her behind.

The woman still thanks me every time she sees me for giving her that opportunity.

You can do a lot with this scene if you want to.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Cella
11-09-2009, 05:27 PM
Thank you everyone...I really appreciate your input and how you've shared such personal experiences.

I do believe I have just what I needed to know now. :)

Cella

JrFFKacy
11-11-2009, 07:37 AM
There was a Vital Signs Absent call that I heard awhile back. It was for my station, but I had a really bad case of stomach flu and didn't respond. I was told later that the ER Doctor asked the firefighter who had ridden on the ambulance with the patient (helping EMS to do CPR) to come with him when he told the family. This Firefighter was friends of the patient and his wife. The Dr requested that he come along when he told the family. The firefighter was glad he was there since the wife of the deceased really needed a stable, but familiar person while she fell apart over the whole thing. I don't know who else was involved, besides the Dr. and the Firefighter.

Our policies here don't allow us to pronounce anyone dead without a lot of trouble. If EMS wants to declare a patient, they have to call in to ER, then wait on scene until a coroner and the Police come check out the situation. This can take hours, so it's actually faster for us to do CPR all the way to the hospital, so that's what we do. The first (and hopefully last for a long time) time I did CPR on a pt, the family had a pretty good idea their relative was dead before we even loaded her on the ambulance. I never heard what actually happened at the hospital, just that she was declared DOA.

AKA Me
11-12-2009, 12:59 AM
From personal experience...person in similar situation rushed to ER, died along the way but was not declared until reached the ER. When we (immediate family) got to the hospital, social worker first had to verify our identities and get info from us about the identity of the deceased (address, etc.) They were more concerned about getting their info than about helping us deal with our pain. This was an inner city hospital that sees many similar cases. Chaplain was called to talk with us. Doctor who declared finally came to talk to us after a long wait and brought several others along (not sure who they all were.) Doctor left and chaplain took us to see the deceased, warning us that breathing tubes would still be in place. In the room we were able to touch and talk to the deceased and the chaplain led a prayer for us there. We were told an autopsy must be performed, so body would be transfered to medical examiner and from there the funeral home could pick it up once autopsy was complete. We found a funeral home online, called and explained the situation. The funeral home did all the rest, they know exactly what to do, how to retrieve the body, how long it will take in a case like this, etc. The chaplain at the hospital and the funeral director were very sympathetic and helpful. The others, not so much.

wanda45451964
11-12-2009, 01:59 AM
I can tell you that all of these things will happen, I have been through half of them myself already. I can also tell you that when my father passed away in the hospital after being in a coma for a month, i was at home, I had already told him everything i wanted him to know and told him he could let go at anytime he was ready to go see mom. When he did he called my name and I knew before his sisters even called and told me. That was his way of letting me know, and it does happen. But I was able to have closure like this. It depends on the person.The last time that I seen my mom she smiled and said I love you and I told her the same thing, The next morning she was killed in a car accident. so yeah I believe that people do know. i hope that this helps you write whatever it is that you are writing.

quixote100104
11-12-2009, 12:22 PM
The MC's mother ODs on heroine, is rushed to the ER. He's waiting for a short while in the waiting room until the Dr. tells her there wasn't anything they could do. ...

Which brings me to ..... after the Dr. walks away....now what?

your answers have all helped :) Thank you!

I worked in hospital Security for ten years in a regional trauma center. In our hospital, the chaplain was the only one we were allowed to call to tell a family about a patient death and they did recieve special training in grief counseling. We were in charge of the body until it was released to a funeral director or thier representative. Bed Control had the names and contact info of our affiliated funeral reps, if the family needed a reccomendation and the chaplain helped with that decision as well, if needed.

In the above situation, assuming the family really wanted to see the body right then, we would have likely escorted them right into the ER, closed the door (our ER bays were enclosed) and let them do it right there. We'd probably try to discourage immediate viewing though, becaus a body in the aftermath of emergency life-saving measures isn't often a visual image you want to associate with your deceased loved one. If the patient OD'd, they'd likely be intubated (a tube forced down the throat to keep the airway open), with the nozzle sticking out of thier mouth (pretty gruesome). There'd be stuff all over the place, where the team was ripping wrappings off materials from the crash cart and discarding them. There might be IV lines in the arms, etc. And, depending on how busy the ER is, it might be a while before anyone has the time to correct these things.

When the ER was ready, they'd call us and we'd transport the body to the morgue (local color: ours was officially termed the ECU, for "Eternal Care Unit"). It was near the chapel, where we would take bodies from the ECU to do viewings if the family came in later. Regardless of where the viewing took place, we'd have to stand by in case of a disturbance and because the body was in our custody. We could step outside the door to give the family privacy, if they were well behaved, but no farther.

I don't know how much of the hospital experiance is needed in your story, but another element to consider is valuables and clothing. Depending on how much effort was expended on the patient, their clothing might well have been cut away. In our hospital, it was placed in a paper bag (or plastic, if bloody) and held for the family. We always offered to discard it if they didn't want it, especially if it was bloody, because it was basically useless and probably would have been hard on the family to handle anyway, all cut up like that.

Anything in the pockets, jewelry, etc. would be placed in a large envelope with an attached multi-copy form (the bottom copy of which was actually the outside of the envelope). All valuables would be itemized, cash counted, credit cards noted, etc and it would all go on the form, which would be signed by the officer and a witness, usually either the chaplain or an ER staffer. The envelope would then be sealed and the claiming family member would have to sign as well to claim the items. unscrupulous officers would have them sign first, before opening the envelope, to avoid hassles if they claimed something was missing (signing acknowleged legally the receipt of the listed items). The hospital would still compensate them if they complained and the claim was remotely reasonable, but the signature protected the officer from being hassled about losing something.

wanda45451964
11-12-2009, 07:33 PM
It does depend on different circumstances for everyone. When its a sudden death its really traumatic, like my mom was. you are in shock and cant deal with anything for awhile. So yes, I would say that chaplain would be needed. But we called our pastor, and most family members do have a pastor that will come and help them deal with it. Personally, I wouldnt have wanted to see any thing like that with my mom, after she died. I wold have had a nervous break down, for sure had I seen her in the Er. as the lady above stated. Thats way to much for anyone. But, we did not leave her there long and she was taken diectly to funeral home and we made arrangements the next day. I vguess it just depends on circumstances around the death, because everyone is different.