On the journey with the dying: how general practitioners experience the death of their patients

Death Stud. 2011 Oct;35(9):824-51. doi: 10.1080/07481187.2011.553315.


A grounded theory study was undertaken to understand how general practitioners (GPs) experience the death of their patients. Eleven GPs participated in semistructured interviews. The participants explained their experience of a patient's death using the "death journey" metaphor. This journey, the Journey with the Dying, could be described from 5 different moments in the participants' encounters with people who are dying: private acknowledgement, communication of prognosis, continuity of care, the moment of death, and looking after the family. Emotional responses for each of the stages, and coping strategies in general, were outlined. GPs' narratives about professional identity, learning about dying and death, and death beliefs were also important in the Journey with the Dying. The experience of death described by the GPs in this study was different from that reported by medical doctors in other care settings. The 5 phases of the Journey with the Dying identified here show the different adjustments and appraisals that GPs undertake to comprehend and to be able to work in the presence of death.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Bereavement*
  • Communication
  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Female
  • General Practitioners / psychology*
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metaphor
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Prognosis
  • South Australia
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminal Care / psychology*