Coping with death and dying on a neurology inpatient service: death rounds as an educational initiative for residents

Arch Neurol. 2011 Nov;68(11):1395-7. doi: 10.1001/archneurol.2011.618.


Background: Residents in neurology may feel unprepared to care for dying patients. We developed Death Rounds to provide emotional support and end-of-life care teaching for residents caring for dying patients on the inpatient neurology service. Death Rounds are monthly 1-hour clinical case discussions where residents identify issues through shared experiences.

Objective: To survey neurology residents' perceptions of Death Rounds with respect to end-of-life care teaching and emotional support. Design, Setting, and

Participants: We conducted an electronic survey of all (n = 26) neurology residents and recent residency graduates at the University of Washington 2 years after instituting monthly Death Rounds. Main Outcome Measure The survey consisted of 10 questions examining residents' perceptions of the extent to which Death Rounds provided emotional support and end-of-life care teaching. We dichotomized responses to statements about Death Rounds as agree or disagree.

Results: All 26 residents responded to the survey and attended at least 1 Death Rounds session. More than half of residents attended more than 3 sessions. Residents agreed that Death Rounds helped them cope with dying patients (17 residents [65%]), delivered closure for the team (16 residents [61%]), and provided emotional support, more for the team (18 residents [69%]) than the individual (10 residents [38%]). Most residents felt that Death Rounds provided useful teaching about end-of-life care (18 residents [69%]), and they were satisfied overall with Death Rounds (16 residents [61%]).

Conclusions: Death Rounds afford an opportunity for physicians-in-training to process as a group their feelings, intense emotions, and insecurities while learning from the dying process. In our inpatient neurology service, most residents found it a rewarding and valuable experience.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Neurology / education*
  • Neurology / methods
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Teaching Rounds* / methods
  • Terminal Care / methods