Mortality in Danish intensive care units (ICUs) continues at 27%, resulting in a large number of bereaved family members being cared for in the ICU.
To investigate the provision of bereavement care and follow-up services for bereaved families in Danish ICUs.
Self-administered computerized cross-sectional nation-wide survey of Danish ICUs.
Nurses at 46 of 48 (96%) ICUs in Denmark responded. Bereavement care at the time of patient death included viewing the patient in ICU (100%), and in the hospital mortuary (59%). Information about hospital-based follow-up for the family was provided in 72% of units, whereas only one unit provided information on community-based bereavement follow-up. Bereavement follow-up services after hospitalization were offered to families in 59% of ICUs and included an ICU visit, meeting with the staff present at the time of death, a letter of condolence, a phone call to the family, referral to a priest or clergyman, or referral to other counseling. Although many interventions were common, there were variations within the elements offered. Nurses and physicians were the most consistent health care staff involved in bereavement services.
Most ICUs in Denmark offered bereavement follow-up services, but these varied in their approach, were not evidence-based, and lacked formal evaluation. More systematic quality improvement of bereavement practices is required.