RD27 (2017) A Manager’s guide to sudden death of a colleague



At the scene

·      Don’t touch anything

·      Those who discover the body are witnesses


·      NOK

·      Police

·      Do not notify department before death is confirmed by the above


Short term:


·      Identify a family spokesperson

·      Identify a department spokesperson (one hospital only)

·      Communicate the news sensitively and respectfully

·      Cause of death can be withheld from staff if the family wishes

·      Do not dramatise

·      Do not describe means of death

Workplace management

·      Notify staff before operating begins

·      ±Cancel elective lists and clinics – grieving, memorial service



·      Physical presence of senior staff helps

·      Bereavement leave

·      Critical incident support

·      Welfare advocacy

·      Referral to EAP, ANZCA DSP, DHAS, lifeline, beyond blue


·      May struggle more. Suggest opt out EAP


·      ±Ongoing contact

·      Offer to pack up and bring home belongings


Medium term:

Return to normal

·      Balance need for leave vs need to provide clinical services

·      Must encourage staff to seek help

·      Will require some redundancy in rostering – discuss with CMO

·      Duration of grief depends upon a) person b) closeness to the deceased

·      Difficulties may peak at key milestones – e.g. a year later, Christmas

Honour the person

·      e.g. at a department function

·      Some trainees will have moved on but might want to attend

·      Must not glamorise suicide