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Viewings of deceased persons in a hospital mortuary: critical reflection on social work practice


Whelan, J and Gent, H, Viewings of deceased persons in a hospital mortuary: critical reflection on social work practice, Australian Social Work, 66, (1) pp. 130-144. ISSN 0312-407X (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 Australian Association of Social Workers

DOI: doi:10.1080/0312407X.2011.645244


Although social workers have been employed in acute hospitals for many decades and in some city mortuaries since the 1980s, little has been written about the assistance they provide to individuals to view bodies of family members who have died in sudden and unexpected circumstances. Using an approach based on critical reflection, the paper discusses the authors’ interest in writing about this specific area of practice as it has developed at the Royal Hobart Hospital during the last 10 years. It presents an overview of relevant theoretical and research literature, including discussion of the mortuary as a location for social work practice. Procedures followed by social workers in assisting with viewings are described and placed in the context of single session work as an appropriate framework for this specialist practice. The paper concludes by emphasising the importance of caring for staff engaged in work that is both personally and professionally confronting and demanding through preparation and through the development of a culture of leadership and support.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:sudden death, mortuary, viewing bodies, critical reflection
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Social work
Research Field:Clinical social work practice
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Provision of health and support services
Objective Field:Allied health therapies (excl. mental health services)
UTAS Author:Whelan, J (Ms Janet Whelan)
ID Code:82979
Year Published:2013 (online first 2012)
Web of Science® Times Cited:5
Deposited By:Sociology and Social Work
Deposited On:2013-02-26
Last Modified:2016-11-03

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