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MUHC study highlights importance of kindness and commemoration by hospital staff

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Published: 3 Oct 2005

A study by researchers at the MUHC suggests actions of hospital staff following the death of a child profoundly affect the family of the deceased, even months after the event.

A study by researchers at the MUHC suggests actions of hospital staff following the death of a child profoundly affect the family of the deceased, even months after the event. The study, published in the scientific journal Pediatrics, involved interviews with bereaved parents whose child died following long-term hospitalization with a critical illness.

Researchers discovered that bereaved parents greatly appreciated efforts made by hospital staff to send cards, make phone calls and visit, and clearly recalled which staff engaged in which acts. The study also revealed that bereaved parents were greatly saddened by the absence of key staff members at their child's funeral or memorial service, and remembered those in attendance even months after the event.

"The study demonstrates the importance that parents place on hospital staff acts of kindness and remembrance during their time of grief," says the study's lead author, Dr. Mary Ellen Macdonald, a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University based at the Montreal Children's Hospital Palliative Care Program of the MUHC. Most health workers try hard to juggle their workload in order to attend funeral or memorial services of their patients; in the case of critically ill children, these patients have undergone extensive stays and become part of the hospital family.

"Our results show that health professionals can seriously affect the bereaved family both positively and negatively after the death of their child," notes Dr. Macdonald. "Until now, we were unaware just how important families considered these acts of kindness and remembrance. Sending a card or a letter is such a simple gesture, but it made an incredible difference to families mourning the loss of their child."

The Montreal Children's Hospital is the pediatric teaching hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). The institution is a leader in the care and treatment of sick infants, children and adolescents from across Quebec. The Montreal Children's Hospital provides a high level and broad scope of health care services, and provides ultra specialized care in many fields including: cardiology and cardiac surgery; neurology and neurosurgery, traumatology; genetic research; psychiatry and child development; and musculoskeletal conditions, including orthopedics and rheumatology. Fully bilingual and multicultural, the institution respectfully serves an increasingly diverse community in more than 50 languages.

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University — the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

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Contact: Ian Popple
Organization: MUHC Public Relations and Communications
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