D Gray, H Hood, G Haworth, C Smyth, G Linklater
Journal Issue: 
Volume 48: Issue 4: 2018




Background The aim of this study was to examine, by means of a postal questionnaire, the experience of all grades of doctors caring for patients dying in an acute hospital in Scotland. 

Method A postal questionnaire was sent to 306 doctors working in inpatient medical and surgical specialties, emergency medicine, anaesthetics and intensive care medicine in an acute hospital.

Results There was an overall 41% response rate (127/306). Of responding doctors 55% had cared for 10 or more patients in the previous year. A quarter of respondents had personal experience of bereavement outside of clinical practice within the previous year. A total of 65% of responding doctors agreed that their most memorable patient death had had a strong emotional impact upon them. Responding doctors reported benefit from peer support. There was no association between length of time as a doctor and difficulty rating for talking to patients about death (p-value: 0.203). There was no association between difficulty rating and length of time working as a doctor when talking to relatives about death and dying (p-value: 0.205). We considered the questionnaire responses in relation to Scottish Government policy and initiatives associated with the care of the dying, and the future training and support of doctors caring for this group of patients and their relatives. 

Conclusion Doctors describe similar experiences in terms of communication difficulties and emotional effects of caring for dying patients irrespective of their length of time working as a doctor.