Community (district) nurses play a significant role in assisting and supporting bereaved informal carers (family members and friends) of recently deceased clients of palliative care. Bereavement care demands a wide range of competencies including clinical decision-making. To date, little has been known about the decision-making role of community nurses in Australia. The aim of this study was to conduct in-depth examination of an existing data set generated from semi-structured interviews of 10 community nurses providing follow-up bereavement care home visits within an area health service of a metropolitan region of Sydney, Australia. A grounded theory approach to data analysis generated a model, which highlights an interaction between ‘the relationship’, ‘the circumstances’ (surrounding the bereavement), ‘the psychosocial variant’, ‘the mix of nurses’, ‘the workload’, and ‘the support’ available for the bereaved and for community nurses, and elements of ‘the visit’ (central to bereavement care).
The role of community nurses in bereavement care is complex, particularly where decision-making is discretionary and contingent on multiple variables that effect the course of the family's grief. The decision model has the potential to inform community nurses in their support of informal carers, to promote reflective practice and professional accountability, ensuring continuing competence in bereavement care.