Bereavement Practices Among Head and Neck Cancer Surgeons

Roberto N. Solis, Nicole I. Farber, Nathan Fairman, Nuen T. Yang, Sandra L. Taylor, Marianne Abouyared, Arnaud F. Bewley, D. Gregory Farwell, Andrew C. Birkeland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Head and neck cancer surgeons frequently interact with dying patients with advanced disease and their families, but little is known about their bereavement practices after a patient's death. The aim of this study is to elucidate the frequency of common bereavement practices, cited barriers to bereavement, and predictive physician factors that lead to an increase in bereavement practices among head and neck cancer surgeons. Methods: A 20-item survey was sent to 827 active surgeons of the American Head and Neck Society. Approval was obtained and the survey was distributed through the American Head and Neck Society. Demographics, frequency of common bereavement practices, empathy, and barriers were assessed. Multiple linear regression was performed to determine physician factors associated with more frequent bereavement follow-up. Results: There were 156 respondents (18.9% response rate). Overall, surgeons were more likely to usually/always call (48.5%) or send a letter (42.4%) compared with other practices such as attending funerals (0%), offering family meetings (18.6%), or referring family members to counseling (7.7%). Many barriers were cited as being at least somewhat important: being unaware about a patient's death (67.3%) was the most cited, whereas 51.3% cited a lack of mentorship/training in this area. Scoring higher on empathy questions (P ≤.001) was associated with more frequent surgeon bereavement follow-up with the family of deceased patients. Conclusion: There is substantial practice variation among surgeons suggesting a lack of consensus on their roles in bereavement follow-up. Having higher empathy was predictive of higher engagement. Level of Evidence: NA Laryngoscope, 2022.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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