Purpose: Physicians caring for patients with cancer frequently encounter individuals who will die as a result of their disease. The primary aim of this study was to examine the frequency and nature of bereavement practices among cancer care and palliative care physicians in the Pacific Northwest United States. Secondary aims included identification of factors and barriers associated with bereavement follow-up. Methods: An institutional review board (IRB)-approved, anonymous online survey of cancer specialists and palliative care physicians in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming was performed in fall 2010. Potential participants were identified through membership in national professional organizations. Summary statistics and logistic regression methods were used to examine frequency and predictors of bereavement practices. Results: A total of 194 (22.7%) of 856 physicians participated in the online survey, with 164 (19.1%) meeting study inclusion criteria. Overall, 70% of respondents reported always or usually making a telephone call to families, sending a condolence letter, or attending a funeral service after a patient's death. The most common perceived barriers to bereavement follow-up were lack of time and uncertainty of which family member to contact. Sixty-nine percent of respondents did not feel that they had received adequate training on bereavement follow-up during postgraduate training. Conclusion: Although a significant portion of respondents engaged in some form of bereavement follow-up, the majority felt inadequately trained in these activities. Efforts to identify available resources and address bereavement activities in postgraduate training may contribute to improved multidisciplinary treatment of patients with cancer and their families.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy