How are ambulance personnel prepared and supported to withhold or terminate resuscitation and manage patient death in the field? A scoping review


emergency medical services
out-of-hospital cardiac arrest
resuscitation decisions

How to Cite

Anderson N, Slark J, Gott M. How are ambulance personnel prepared and supported to withhold or terminate resuscitation and manage patient death in the field? A scoping review. Australasian Journal of Paramedicine [Internet]. 2019Jul.11 [cited 2022Jan.23];160. Available from:



Research shows that ambulance personnel can find it challenging to withhold or terminate resuscitation and manage patient death in the field. This scoping review provides a synthesis of published research that has addressed three main questions. Each relates to ambulance personnel enacting decisions to withhold or terminate resuscitation and manage patient death: How are they prepare; what supports and coping strategies are utilised; and what preparation and support needs have been identified?


Using Arksey and O’Malley’s five-stage scoping review framework this review identifies what is known and what further research is needed in this area.


Sixteen methodologically heterogenous papers were located. Half of the studies were conducted in the United States, with the remainder in Canada, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Ambulance personnel receive little formal training and feel unprepared to manage situations where resuscitation is unsuccessful or unwarranted, particularly communicating with family, breaking bad news and managing death scenes. These aspects of termination of resuscitation are so challenging that distancing and avoidance are sometimes used as coping strategies, even when medical futility has been established. In addition to formal counselling for personal loss and stressors, ambulance personnel value downtime and informal peer debriefing, following difficult resuscitation decisions and patient deaths.


Ambulance personnel feel inadequately prepared to withhold or terminate resuscitation and manage patient death in the field. They want more opportunities to learn about death notification, communication with bereaved families and safe, sensitive management of death scenes. More research is needed to determine how best to prepare and support ambulance personnel for the challenges of resuscitation decision-making and patient death.


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