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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Program

Preparing for a Sudden, Unexpected Infant Death Home Visit: Coroner Teaming 

The sudden, unexpected infant death home visit can be more effective if the SIDS Coordinators (SC) and Public Health Professionals (PHP) talks to the coroner's investigator prior to the visit. This is useful for gathering important information about the family and the death of the baby, and also provides an opportunity to get to know the coroner's investigator.

Understanding each other's role and sharing resources and information allows the SC/PHP and coroner to have a better understanding of the nature of the home visit and its powerful value. Creating a team approach benefits the coroner's investigator, the SC/PHP, and families.

Here are samples of types of questions to ask the coroner's investigator before the home visit:

  1. Was the family informed that a SC/PHP would be calling the parents to make a home visit?
  2. What information was told to parents about possible causes of death?
  3. What are the preliminary death scene investigation and autopsy results?
  4. Were there any unusual circumstances to the death?
  5. Where did the death occur? Home, child-care facility, other?
  6. Are there any other locations where the family may be residing, such as relatives' homes?
  7. Was the infant sick or on medications? If so what illness and what medications?
  8. Was the infant's pediatrician, primary care physician, or health care facility informed of the death? Do you have contact information?
  9. Was the mother's obstetrician informed of the death? Do you have contact information?
  10. What information or educational materials were given to the parents?
  11. Are there other children in the family?
  12. What language is spoken by the family?
  13. Is there anything else the SC/PHP should know before making the call or home visit?

Obtaining the answers to these questions prior to the home visit helps to be more effective in support of the families and to better address their individual needs. It also helps families by reducing their burden of repeatedly answering the same questions and describing the details of their baby's death over and over again. In addition, the SC/PHP has more time for answering the family's questions and helping the family through the grieving process.

It is a good habit to call the coroner's office back to thank them for their support and assistance and to exchange information and share findings. If needed, this is also a good opportunity to educate and inform the coroner team of needed changes in the approach and assessment of families, share materials and resources, and clarify information about sudden, unexpected infant deaths.

Reference: Stasny, P. F., BSN, RN, PHN, Keens, T. G., MD, & Alkon, A., RN, PNP, PhD. (2016). Supporting SIDS Families: The Public Nurse SIDS Home Visit. Public Health Nursing.

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