Dealing With The Bereaved

How does your staff  handle people when they come into the surgery that have recently been bereaved?

  • Do your staff have training on dealing with patients that have recently been bereaved? Remember good trained staff are confident staff.
  • Do you have a protocol on dealing with bereaved patients? Do you notify your Receptionists when a patient dies or do you just leave it for them to find out?
  • Are you confident in the way that your staff deals with patients that come into the surgery that had just recently lost a loved one?
  • Are your staff compassionate? Are they helpful to those patients suffering a loss?
  • Do you notify your Doctors / District Nurses / Health Visitors other appropriate healthcare professionals when you have notification when a patient dies?

It really does make a huge difference when dealing with someone who has recently been bereaved.

I can hear you saying that your staff are compassionate with all your patients – but they really need to have a “bit extra time” for those that have recently been bereaved.

True Story

I lost my dad 2 years ago. As you can imagine it was the most awful time and on top of our shock and sadness we had to get everything sorted out and we had to visit and telephone so many different organisations such as Hospitals, Funeral Directors, Banks, Solicitors, Florists, Utility companies, Pension agencies, Council,  ……..  the list went on and on.

I found that 99% of every  person that we dealt with to be compassionate, extremely helpful, and very understanding. They all had a policy in place to deal with a death. They had appropriate forms, they all knew exactly what they had to do. It really did help so much when we understandably upset confused and exhausted.

Every single one of them did as much as they could, and explained in full what would or had to be done. I cannot tell you how much stress this took off us as the family when dealing with so many agencies.

Unfortunately it was that 1% – that one person that was the most unhelpful,   and she was the only person that kept referring to my dad as the “deceased” unlike every other single person that referred to him by his name. I found my dad being called “the deceased” the most upsetting thing ever. I wanted to scream he is my dad and he has a name! But I just didn’t have it in me to speak up. I was exhausted. 

This particular person was really not very helpful – her attitude was uncaring and to to point of almost being rude in fact she made me feel very uncomfortable. She even sighed at one point when I asked a question that I was not sure about. 

It’s sad but when I think of all the people we dealt with over the weeks it is always the 1% – the one that was NOT helpful, NOT compassionate and NOT very understanding that comes to the front of my mind.

What a shame that had to happen. That 1% had to spoil it all.

I ask myself did she not have the right training; did she in fact have any training at all in dealing with such a delicate matter? Was she the right person to be dealing with such matters? She might be an excellent worker – but was she the right person to be dealing with customers?

So, when someone comes into your reception (especially the elderly) that has just lost a loved one, remember this, they will be extremely upset, confused, tired, and your surgery might be the umpteen place that they have been to visit that day or week.

So a little bit of compassion and a bit of time from your Receptionist will certainly help the patient in a big way.

Make sure you are never that 1% that sticks in someones mind – for all the wrong reasons.

See previous blogs:

1.    Special Needs Board

2.    When a Patient Dies


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One thought on “Dealing With The Bereaved

  1. I agree with all of this. Oddly enough the thing that really throws me as a GP receptionist is when someone calls for the Death Certificate and it has not been put out in the office for collection. This is just the Pits! You have to keep the poor person waiting while you hunt about, ring around and go and ask other people. This is sometimes because a GP has called to say the Death Cert has been done and is ready for collection – and then gone on to another call and left it sitting on their desk. Or it has been put in a plain envelope (rather than the official one) and put for collection under the collector’s name, as happened to me the other day.

    While the term ‘deceased’ is correct technically it muse be unbearable to hear your mum/dad/ child etc being referred to as such. You might almost go the whole hog and simply say ‘The Corpse.’ Although it is never comfortable, I have always found just a gentle, ‘I am so sorry for the loss of you mum’ (dad, sister etc) goes a long way and brings a grateful flicker into most people’s eyes, and quite often a little stream of information that they wanted to share with someone. You can risk this even if you didn’t know the person – and it helps to value the one who has gone.

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