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The Forgotten Mourners: Addressing Health Care Provider Grief—A Systematic Review

Carton, Erin R. MSN, CRNP; Hupcey, Judith E. EdD, CRNP, FAAN

Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing: July 2014 - Volume 16 - Issue 5 - p 291–303
doi: 10.1097/NJH.0000000000000067
Feature Articles

Health care providers often experience the death of patients in their care, which can lead to grief reactions. If not adequately addressed, grief can lead to burnout, compassion fatigue, and psychological distress. A systematic review of the literature was undertaken using PubMed, PsycInfo, and CINAHL databases for English-language articles focusing on services available to address health care provider grief. Twelve articles were identified for review, 9 of which focused on pediatric health care providers. Interventions and measurement tools varied considerably between studies. Outcomes were variable and inconclusive. Health care provider grief can have serious implications for individual care providers as well as the health care system. Controlled experimental research is needed to determine how to effectively address this grief across a wide variety of specialties. A grief measurement tool targeted at health care providers as well as an accurate indication of the prevalence of health care provider grief would further the science in this area.

Erin R. Carton, MSN, CRNP, is a palliative care nurse practitioner, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Judith E. Hupcey, EdD, CRNP, FAAN, is associate dean for Graduate Education and a professor of Nursing, Pennsylvania State University, State College.

Address correspondence to Erin R. Carton, MSN, CRNP, 3400 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2014 by The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.