For the patient being seen in a physician’s office
- Realize that returning to an obstetrician’s or pediatrician’s office can and will be very difficult.
- If possible, schedule the appointment at the time when the patient won’t have to sit in a waiting room with pregnant women or families with new babies.
- Set up a system to flag charts so that on return visits everyone is aware of the situation.
- Offer referrals to appropriate support groups – offer to make the first call.
- Follow-up of these patients is essential and should be done at these times:
– At the time of death
– Two or three days after discharge
– Two to four months after the death
(This is critical because the hardest times are usually not when the death occurs but often months later. Support has dropped off, the shock has worn off, and the reality of the child’s death has set in).
– On the one year anniversary of the child’s death.
A special note to medical and office personnel:
Parents always appreciate hearing from people who cared for and remember their child.
Please try to call the parents sometime during the first several months to see how they are or to simply say, “I was thinking about your son/daughter today and I wanted to give you a call.” This conveys to the family that their child was more than just another patient to you and is remembered. This can be especially true for families whose baby died at, or shortly after delivery, because the hospital staff may be the only people, other than the parents, who spent any time with their child while he/she was alive.
If a phone call is not possible, consider sending them a card or a letter of condolence that expresses the same kind of message.