Health professionals' experiences of grief associated with the death of pediatric patients: a systematic review

Shannon Barnes, Zoe Jordan, Margaret Broom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this review was to synthesize the experiences of health professionals who have experienced grief as a result of a pediatric patient dying. INTRODUCTION: There has been some research into health professionals' grief experiences associated with the death of pediatric patients, but there has not been a review that synthesizes the findings of these experiences. Other related reviews have focused on prenatal, perinatal or adult deaths or the coping strategies employed by health professionals. This review highlights the complexities of experiences faced by pediatric health professionals. INCLUSION CRITERIA: Qualitative studies involving pediatric health professionals working in any healthcare setting who had experienced grief from the death of a patient were considered for inclusion. Studies were conducted in any country, at any time and published in English. METHODS: The search was conducted in PubMed, CINAHL, Embase, PsycINFO, Scopus and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. The search was completed in January 2019. The review followed principles of meta-aggregation in line with the JBI approach. Methodological quality assessment was based on representation of participants' voices and congruence between research methodology and both research question and analysis of data. RESULTS: Meta-aggregation led to three synthesized findings from 12 qualitative studies that met the inclusion and methodological quality criteria. Studies predominantly included nurses working in a hospital, with sample sizes ranging from six to 25 participants. The synthesized findings were physical, behavioral, psychological or spiritual symptoms; compounding grief; and alleviating grief. Physical, behavioral, psychological, or spiritual symptoms highlighted the various characteristics of grief experiences by health professionals. Compounding grief was the largest synthesized finding and incorporated the various factors that contributed to a poorer experience of grief. Alleviating grief showed the limited identified factors that improved the experience of grief. Methodological quality led to synthesized findings receiving a ConQual rating of low or moderate. CONCLUSIONS: The synthesized findings from this review highlight the varied reported experiences of grief in health professionals. The methodological quality and reporting of studies, however, led to decreased confidence in the synthesized findings and recommendations arising from this review. Healthcare professionals should be aware of the potential for experiencing grief when a patient dies and the compounding and alleviating factors associated with this. Further research could expand participant and language limitations, and improve methodological quality and reporting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-515
Number of pages57
JournalJBI evidence synthesis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


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