Case Study #3
Heather: A Sudden Death
Heather was 24-years old. She was just beginning her second year as a 7th grade math teacher and was to be married to her high school sweetheart in two months. Heather was driving to school when she was hit by a truck that ran a red light. She sustained multiple fractures, head injury, and extensive internal injuries. Her parents and older brother were informed on arrival at the E.R. that her chances for survival were extremely low. She was taken to the operating room but after 3 hours of surgery with uncontrollable bleeding and several resuscitation attempts, she died in the O.R. A clinical nurse specialist, who is on the rapid response team at the hospital, was called to be with the family when they arrived at the hospital. She stayed with them after they received the news of Heather’s death.
1. How is grief from this sudden death likely to differ from death resulting from chronic illness?
2. What communication strategies would be helpful for the clinical nurse specialist to use with Heather’s parents on their arrival to the ER? While she is in surgery? At the time of her death?
3. What kind of grief would the fiancée likely experience? What types of interventions would be helpful? How might his grief differ from Heather’s parents and siblings?
4. How best would the grief of Heather’s students be assessed and managed?