International Practice Development Journal


Title of ArticleFacilitating person-centred after-death care: unearthing assumptions, tradition and values through practice development
Type of ArticleCritical Reflection on Practice Development
Author/sBarbara Anderson
ReferenceVolume 7, Issue 1, Article 6
Date of PublicationMay 2017
Keywordsafter-death care, culture change, language, person-centred practice, policy, practice development

Background: West Park Healthcare Centre, a complex continuing care and rehabilitation setting in Ontario, Canada has implemented practice development as one method of facilitating person-centred, evidence-informed practices. West Park is planning the construction of a new hospital, with a target construction timeline of 2018-21. Practice development is an internationally established transformation model (Manley et al., 2008) that can breathe life into the necessary but often burdensome process of policy revision in healthcare settings.

Aims: The aim of this article is to share how practice development was used to review and revise West Park’s after-death care policy. The process entailed an integration of a broad span of evidence and intentional challenge of ‘habit-based’ ways. Such an approach to policy revision is needed if practice leaders are to use evidence to help achieve transformative changes in practice.

Conclusions: Our after death-care policy involved processes that were antithetical to our shared vision for person-centred practices. Unquestioned, longstanding traditional approaches to after-death care  needed to be questioned. Through the transformative journey at personal and organisational levels of applying practice development principles to this process, we were successful in bringing forward a policy that supports end-of-life plans of care, choice and person-centred after-death care practices and language.

Implications for practice:

  • Healthcare organisations can review after-death care by exploring different sources of evidence, including research, clinical experience, local audit and patient experience, to challenge taken-for-granted practices
  • Consultation with funeral professionals will be valuable in terms of establishing what they do and do not need from a healthcare organisation
  • Fellow patients do not need to be ‘protected’ from the after-death care process and appreciate having a voice on how it is carried out
  • Respect for language, religious and cultural issues is part of offering a ‘sympathetic presence’ in after-death care practices

This article by Barbara Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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