The impact of COVID-19 on the provision of bereavement support in Australian intensive care units: A national survey

Lisa Speedie, Ashleigh Butler, Melissa Riegel, Kristen Ranse, Thomas Buckley

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Bereavement support is a vital part of caring for families when a patient dies in the intensive care unit (ICU). Previous research has demonstrated that while many ICUs provide some informal aspects of bereavement care, formalised follow-up programmes are uncommon. The impacts of COVID-19 on ICU-based bereavement support are currently unknown.
The objectives of this study were to explore the current provision of bereavement support in Australian ICUs and identify the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on these services.
A cross-sectional exploratory web-based survey was used. The survey was distributed to one senior nurse in each public and private adult, paediatric, and neonatal ICU in Australia between April and July 2022. Descriptive statistics and reflexive thematic analysis were used to analyse the data. Ethical approval was received from La Trobe University.
One hundred and four ICUs from 82 hospitals responded to the survey, with 36 units reporting a formal bereavement follow-up service. When compared to prepandemic levels, almost all of the common bereavement care practices explored in the survey were significantly reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Open-ended responses also demonstrated significant impacts of COVID-19 on bereavement care provision, particularly related to Restricted family togetherness, Logistical Challenges, and Impacts on Staff. Staff members reported adjusting care provision in response to these challenges by exploring Alternative family communications, Facilitation of family togetherness, and Increasing family supports.
Many of the common elements of ICU-based bereavement care were significantly reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the number of formal bereavement follow-up services in Australian ICUs remains largely unchanged since 2015. Ongoing research is needed to explore the long-term effects of these changes on staff and family wellbeing and on ongoing provision of ICU-based bereavement support.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Specialist publicationAustralian Critical Care
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2023


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