Family Physicians' Involvement With Dying Patients and Their Families
Attitudes, Difficulties, and Strategies
Dov Steinmetz, MD;
Michelle Walsh, PhD, RN;
Lawrence L. Gabel, PhD;
P. Tennyson Williams, MD
Arch Fam Med. 1993;2(7):753-760.
To determine family physicians' perceptions of the difficulty in caring for dying patients and how prepared they are to provide such care relative to strategies used with difficulties encountered, personal need for support and development, and cooperation with other caregivers.
Thirty-five randomly selected family physicians (doctors of medicine and doctors of osteopathy) representative of family physicians practicing in Franklin County, Ohio.
Major Outcome Measures
A semistructured interview guide corresponding to a three-dimensional theoretical model developed prior to the study was used to determine family physicians' perceptions regarding care of dying patients and their families. The three dimensions include family physicians' involvement with dying patients and their families, their personal needs and development, and their cooperation with other caregivers.
Participants agreed that the care of dying patients and their families is an important and special component of practicing family medicine. Generally seeing themselves as adequately prepared, they still found such care difficult and desired more education and training to increase comfort of their patients and of themselves. Their perceptions regarding the care of dying patients and their families could be categorized in terms of communication as part of the care process, family issues, legal and ethical issues, coordination of care, physicians' feelings, and physicians' influence and support.
Family physicians require formal training in death issues and need to find a way to maximize learning through personal experiences. Discussion of cases in a support group may be beneficial.
From the Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine (Drs Steinmetz, Gabel, and Williams) and the Department of Family and Community, College of Nursing (Dr Walsh), The Ohio State University, Columbus. Dr Steinmetz is now in private practice and associated with the Central Emek Hospital, Alfu, Israel.
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