Geller G, Rushton CH, Francomano C, Kolodner K, Bernhardt BA. Genetics professionals' experiences with grief and loss: implications for support and training.
This study was designed to determine the degree to which clinical genetics professionals are comfortable with grief and loss, whether discomfort with grief and loss is associated with clinician distress, and what factors predict comfort with grief and loss for the purpose of developing recommendations for support and training. We surveyed 300 clinical geneticists (MDs), genetic counselors (GCs) and genetic nurses randomly selected from their professional associations. Out of 225 eligible clinicians, 172 completed surveys (76% response rate). The vast majority of respondents have clinical interactions with patients and families who are experiencing grief, loss and/or death. However, nearly 20% of respondents reported that they did not feel ‘comfortable in the presence of grief and loss'. Twenty-nine percent of respondents disagree or strongly disagree that they ‘have been adequately trained to address issues of death, dying, grief/bereavement, and end of life care’. Reported discomfort with grief and loss was strongly correlated with clinician distress. Predictors of comfort with grief and loss included perceived adequacy of training, tolerance for uncertainty, significant personal experiences of loss and deriving meaning from patient care. In conclusion, as follows. A significant minority of clinical genetics professionals experience discomfort in the presence of grief and loss, and feel inadequately prepared for such experiences. Greater attention should be paid to training clinicians in how to deal with grief and loss, and supporting them through such difficult experiences in an effort to reduce their distress.