The Lived Experience of Emergency Service Personnel in Pediatric Resuscitation and Unexpected Death: A Phenomenological Study


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There were over 63,000 pediatric deaths in the United States in 2013, with almost 7,000 of those deaths attributed to accidental causes, homicide, and suicide. The death of a child has a major impact on healthcare professionals caring for children and families. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experience of emergency service personnel who are involved in an unsuccessful pediatric resuscitation effort and the impact this experience has on them professionally and personally. A phenomenological approach based on the philosophy of Max van Manen (1990) was used to guide this study. Using an open-ended format, a purposive sample of emergency service personnel, who experienced an unexpected pediatric death, were interviewed. The research question asked: What is it like for you when a child dies after an unsuccessful resuscitation attempt? Madison’s (1988) nine principles were used to ensure rigor. Van Manen’s four existentials guided this study and 12 subthemes emerged that included: “what if,” “dying before my eyes,” “team,” “what if it was my child?/being a parent,” “brutality of a resuscitation,” “being trapped,” “wounded healer,” “education,” “anger,” “failure,” and “coping.” It may be concluded that these health care professionals experienced a sense of anger, failure, and a lack of preparation to cope with an unexpected pediatric death and the unknowns of life.



pediatric, unexpected death, phenomenology