Chapter 2: Addressing work-related grief stress

Redefining "hard" and "successful" calls

The paramedic says
Tyne reflects on what are good outcomes. (3:22)Video transcript
Cheryl explains how rewarding palliative care can be.(3:22)Video transcript
Tristan reflects on a "good bad" call. (3:22)Video transcript

The hard call

Multiple motor vehicle accidents, a SIDS death, or the tragic scene of a suicide completion usually define what paramedics refer to as the “hard calls.” Accompanying a person through the last hours of life can also be very demanding, even when symptoms are well managed, the family is co-operative and the environment is calm. Some palliative care calls can in fact be more difficult than those traditionally thought of as “hard calls.”

 A successful call

A successful call might commonly be defined as a life saved. In a palliative care call, you must measure success differently or else risk considering all calls in which someone dies as failures. Your role in palliative calls is not to prevent death but to provide support and symptom management.

You can achieve a great deal by helping to make the passage into death as comfortable as possible for both patient and family. You can do this in many ways by:

  • Maintaining a calm environment.

  • Relieving and reducing symptoms.

  • Protecting the patient’s dignity.

  • Supporting the patient’s goals of care.

  • Setting up services to support family caregiving.

  • Helping patients and families in treatment planning and decision making.

  • Connecting patient and families to additional community supports and health care professionals.

  • Facilitating difficult conversations among family members.

  • Supporting families in anticipatory and acute grief.

  • Facilitating last messages.

  • Identifying families at risk and making appropriate referrals.

  • Collaborating with other members of the care team.

Reflective exercise

It’s evident in the practical and psychosocial activities listed above that paramedics can make a profound difference in the experience of patients and families at end of life and after death. Work-related grief distress may be inevitable. Reflect on the valuable role you play in easing that transition.