When a Child Dies in the PICU Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVES:Around the world, the PICU is one of the most common sites for hospitalized children to die. Although ensuring the best possible care experience for these children and their families is important, clear recommendations for end-of-life and bereavement care, arising from the parents themselves, remain limited within current literature. This report aims to describe bereaved parents' recommendations for improvements in end-of-life care and bereavement follow-up when a child dies in intensive care. DESIGN:Thematic analysis of incidental data from a larger grounded theory study. SETTING:Four Australian PICUs. SUBJECTS:Twenty-six bereaved parents participated in audio-recorded, semi-structured interviews in 2015-2016. Interviews explored their experiences of having a child die in intensive care and their experiences of end-of-life care and bereavement follow-up. Data pertaining to this report were analyzed via thematic analysis. INTERVENTIONS:None. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS:Bereaved parents identified several areas for care delivery and improvement across three time periods: during hospitalization; during the dying phase; and during bereavement. During hospitalization, parents' recommendations focused on improved communication, changes to the physical environment, better self-care resources, and provision of family support. During the dying phase, parents suggested private, de-medicalized rooms, familiar staff members, and support to leave the hospital. Recommendations for care after death focused mainly on the provision of ongoing support from the hospital or local bereavement services, as well as improved information delivery. CONCLUSIONS:Findings from this study offer many concrete recommendations for improvements in care both during and after a child's death. These recommendations range from simple practice changes to larger organizational modifications, offering many potential avenues for change and improvement both on an individual healthcare provider level and within individual PICUs.

publication date

  • 2019