A new protocol developed by Resolve Through Sharing® (RTS) and Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance prepares prehospital personnel (e.g., paramedics, first responders) in our region to support survivors.
Each year, Tri-State staff respond to more than 100 calls for people experiencing cardiac arrest and nearly 100 more for those who die before emergency services arrive.
Grieving loved ones look to responders for support. Taylor Buchanan, RN, Tri-State paramedic, found herself unprepared when facing grieving family members.
"Emergency personnel were engaging in one of the hardest, if not the most difficult, parts of their jobs without relevant training and support materials," she says. "Prehospital personnel are not taught how to deliver this news in school or in the job force, so I decided to do something about it. I got in touch with RTS and my management at Tri-State to have sit down meetings to present my ideas."
Although RTS staff has developed bereavement education and training for healthcare professionals for nearly 40 years, they recognize the gap in care standards in emergency medical services—both in the hospital and pre-hospital setting, says Mary Beth Hensel, director, RTS.
"For some time, RTS had been having discussions about getting bereavement training and resources to ambulance personnel. When Taylor contacted us, the project was immediately moved to the top of the list," she says.
Together, RTS and Tri-State created a new bereavement protocol for emergency responders that includes training on how to communicate with those who are grieving, a bereavement support folder for survivors, and a personal gesture—a signed sympathy card—from emergency responders.
"I am humbled and honored every day knowing that I am helping fill a gap in patient care," Taylor says.
A grant from the Region 4 Healthcare Emergency Readiness Coalition covered the cost of support folders and training for first responders in the region.
"As caregivers, EMS personnel now have a means by which they can offer comfort and resources to family members and friends of the deceased," says Tom Tornstrom, executive director, Tri-State Ambulance. "Having formal training for EMS staff on how to interact with the loved ones of the recently deceased is something that’s way overdue."
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