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Patient deaths and medical residents: an Asian perspective


Objectives Death is a significant event that affects healthcare providers emotionally. We aimed to determine internal medicine (IM) and paediatric (PD) residents’ responses and the impact on the residents following patient deaths, and to compare any differences between IM and PD residents. We also aimed to determine whether sufficient resources and measures were in place to support residents through their grief process.

Methods This is a single-centre, cross-sectional study involving residents from IM and PD programmes from an academic tertiary hospital in Singapore. The residents completed a questionnaire regarding their responses and emotions after experiencing patient deaths.

Results A total of 122 residents (85 IM and 37 PD, equally distributed between year 1 to year 4 of residency training) participated, with 100% response rate. Only half (57%) felt they would be comfortable treating a dying patient and 66.4% reported feeling sad following their patient’s death. Most (79.5%) were not aware of support resources that were available and 82% agreed that formal bereavement training should be included in the residency curriculum. PD residents had more negative symptoms than IM residents, with poor concentration (PD 35.1% vs IM 16.5%, p=0.02) and lethargy (PD 35.1% vs IM 9.4%, p<0.01) being the most common.

Conclusion In our Asian context, residents are negatively affected by patient deaths, especially the PD residents. There is a need to incorporate relevant bereavement training for all residents.

  • bereavement
  • education and training
  • family management
  • paediatrics
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