SIDS Program Manual SIDS & Infant Death Program Manual and Trainer's Guide Trainer's Guide


Trainer's Guide

First Responders and Emergency Medical Services Personnel

Bereavement Sensitivity Training

First responders and EMTs will require greater focus on information related to bereavement because they will be dealing with the deaths of these infants immediately. The PowerPoint presentation provides greater detail on how to deal with families in a compassionate and thoughtful manner during the crisis as well as enhancing the skills of first responders when dealing with families such as:

  • Comfort, never blame. The role of the prehospital professional in the setting of unexpected infant or child death is difficult. After death has been determined, prehospital professionals should comfort the parents and never blame. Offering sensitive support to the family and gathering accurate information in a non- threatening manner helps to alleviate the future emotional burden of the surviving family members. This may be challenging, because the professional may be struggling with overwhelming personal emotional responses to loss of a patient.
  • Long-lasting impact on parents. Everything that a prehospital professional says and does has a long-lasting impact on parents. Parents will carry what are called “flashbulb memories” for many years. Every detail of the SIDS event will be remembered, including what emergency personnel say and do. Prehospital professionals should take care that you do not appear judgmental or blaming. Phrasing of history questions which suggest responsibility must be avoided. Misguided statements such as “looks like the baby might have suffocated” are very harmful and are inappropriate. Prehospital professionals should not diagnose or declare death.
  • Assist parents with transportation. Prehospital professionals should allow one parent to remain with the baby during transportation to the hospital and, if possible, arrange for the other parent to be driven to the hospital, help the parents secure the home and arrange for someone to care for any siblings.
  • Notify the hospital so that bereavement support is alerted. The hospital can have a nurse or social worker ready to meet the parents.
  • Show compassion. Showing compassion and having a sympathetic attitude is very important. There are no rules for dealing with parents’ reactions. Parents can react in many ways—sometimes violent and angry, sometimes shocked and numb. Prehospital professionals should not take things personally and be prepared for expressions of anger and blame.
  • Respect cultural differences. Sometimes, there is a cultural difference between the prehospital professional and the parent or caregiver and this conflict may appear in unrecognizable rituals and behaviors. This scenario represents another important challenge to the professional. Cultural diversity, if not respected, can deeply endanger the communication with the caregiver.

The presentation also includes information on the pros and cons of transporting suspected SIDS infants, the prehospital professional’s immediate response to an infant death and critical incident stress debriefing.