Saturday, June 7, 2014

Patient Suicides in Healthcare Settings: Staff Impact, Precautions (Hospice Research, Video 3:54)

Having a patient die from terminal illness is very different from having a patient commit suicide. Hospice clinical staff can be affected personally and professionally when a patient commits suicide under their care. Coping strategies and support are often needed to assist staff members after such an occurrence.

This study was done to examine the impact of patient suicides among clinical hospice staff. In an online survey, 186 staff members described the impact of patient suicides on them as people and as professionals, their coping strategies, and recommendations for supporting others. These were the results:

1) The themes expressed by the hospice staff in reaction to patient suicides included psychological responses such as feelings of guilt and self-doubt, changes in professional attitudes, and changes in clinical practice such as greater sensitivity to signs of suicide.

2) When coping with a patient suicide, hospice staff described the use of team-based support strategies, debriefings, and personal spiritual practices.

3) Recommendations for future support included facilitated debriefings, individual counseling, spiritual practices, leaves of absence, self-care activities, and educational interventions.
In addition to hospice staff, other healthcare professionals are impacted by suicides in healthcare settings. Knowing strategies for identifying patients at risk for suicide can be very helpful. The following video gives advice on suicide precautions in healthcare settings:

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.


  1. It's very important for you to be aware of your own feelings, and avoid reacting in ways that could block communication or cause your loved one to react angrily or withdraw. Unhelpful responses include; panicking, criticising, abandoning the person and ignoring.

    Unfortunately, there is still a degree of stigma surrounding suicide. This may make it difficult to talk about your loved one’s suicide attempt, as you may fear that you or they will be judged or criticised.

    Great post Frances!

    1. Emily, you sound like a dedicated caregiver who has dealt with this situation. Thank you for sharing your advice with others. Even with the stigma, it is good to get support and encouragement regarding how to deal with suicide.