Death notification training for prehospital providers: A pilot study

Alex Ponce, Robert Swor, Tammie E. Quest, Michelle MacY, William Meurer, Comilla Sasson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background. When cardiac arrest occurs at home, family members are likely to be present during resuscitation efforts. However, little training is provided to prehospital providers on how to best manage a family-witnessed resuscitation (FWR) and deliver the news of death in the field. Objective. To study the feasibility and utility of an educational intervention designed to improve prehospital provider comfort with FWR and death notification. Methods. This was a pilot study of a convenience sample of 45 prehospital providers who participated in an educational lecture, with 20 providers then attending a small-group standardized death-notification encounter. Descriptive statistics were calculated to assess pre- and postintervention attitudes and knowledge with respect to FWR and death notification. Results. All subjects had participated in at least one cardiac arrest resuscitation effort, with 28 (62.2) having performed a death notification. Seventy-one percent (n 32) of the participants have continued resuscitation efforts despite futility because the family was present. Fifty-five percent of participants (n 25) had an interest in improving their FWR and death notification skills. After the educational seminar, 61.2 (n 19) of all participants correctly answered at least five of the six knowledge-based questions. The small-group intervention participants showed an overall improvement in death notification skills, with a majority expressing confidence in their ability to effectively communicate with families during an unsuccessful resuscitation. Conclusion. This pilot study suggests that a short educational intervention can impact prehospital providers' comfort with death notification. Future research will need to be conducted on prehospital provider skill retention and the impact this training has on family members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-542
Number of pages6
JournalPrehospital Emergency Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Death notification
  • EMS
  • Education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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