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In-Hospital Bereavement Services as an Act of Care and a Challenge: An Integrative Review

Charlotte Boven, Let Dillen, Lieve Van den Block, Ruth Piers, Nele Van Den Noortgate, Liesbeth Van Humbeeck,In-Hospital Bereavement Services as an Act of Care and a Challenge: An Integrative Review, Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 2021, ISSN 0885-3924,


Context: Globally, people most often die within hospitals. As such, healthcare providers in hospitals are often confronted with dying persons and their bereaved relatives.

Objectives: To provide an overview of the current role hospitals take in providing bereavement care. Furthermore, we want to present an operational definition of bereavement care, the way it is currently implemented, relatives' satisfaction of receiving these services, and finally barriers and facilitators regarding the provision of bereavement care.

Methods: An integrative review was conducted by searching four electronic databases, from January 2011 to December 2020, resulting in 47 studies. Different study designs were included and results were reported in accordance with the theoretical framework of Whittemore and Knafl (2005).

Results: Only four articles defined bereavement care: two as services offered solely post loss and the other two as services offered pre and post loss. Although different bereavement services were delivered the time surrounding the death, the follow-up of bereaved relatives was less routinely offered. Relatives appreciated all bereavement services, which were rather informally and ad-hoc provided to them. Healthcare providers perceived bereavement care as important, but the provision was challenged by numerous factors (such as insufficient education and time).

Conclusion: Current in-hospital bereavement care can be seen as an act of care that is provided ad-hoc, resulting from the good-will of individual staff members. A tiered or stepped approach based on needs is preferred, as it allocates funds towards individuals-at-risk. Effective partnerships between hospitals and the community can be a useful, sustainable and cost-effective strategy.