INTRODUCTION: In addition to treating living patients, emergency nurses are also responsible for receiving and caring for persons who are dead on arrival and their relatives. There is limited knowledge about the dead on arrival patient and family population as well as care practice for the dead and their relatives. The first step in improving care for dead on arrival persons is to know the size and characteristics of the population. Therefore, the aim of this study was to describe the size and characteristics of the dead on arrival population in a Danish emergency department.
METHODS: A retrospective review of health records was undertaken for all consecutive dead on arrival persons received in 1 Danish emergency department between January 2018 and December 2019.
RESULTS: A total of 719 dead on arrival persons were included, 350 in 2018 and 369 in 2019. Males accounted for 64%. The mean age was 71 years with a range from 18 to 102 years. The place of death was 80% at home, and more than half (54%) were found either dead or dying by a spouse, cohabitant, or son/daughter. In most cases, the cause of death was described as unknown (92%), whereas suicide and accidents accounted for 8%.
DISCUSSION: The population of dead on arrival persons in a Danish emergency department were mainly men, found dying or dead by relatives and brought in from home. Additional research and development are warranted regarding care practices for dead on arrival and their families in the emergency department.