Postmortem/Last Offices Nursing Care Effectiveness as Perceived by US Licensed Funeral Directors

Dr Mikel W Hand

  • Abstract

    Background: The provision of appropriate physical postmortem nursing care, or last offices, is important for all deceased people, particularly if further preparation is required by the funeral director for the purpose of open-casket viewing. However, the effectiveness of nursing practices in this regard has been the subject of minimal empirical research. Purpose and objectives: The purpose of this study was to explore postmortem/last offices nursing care effectiveness from the perspective of the licensed funeral director. The objectives were to describe the phenomenon of postmortem/last offices nursing care effectiveness, explore perceptions concerning how care procedures may aid or hinder the process of producing a desired cosmetic result with further preparation and gain insight into recommendations concerning care. Methods: A survey adopting qualitative methodology with open-ended questions was used for this study. A convenience sample of 20 licensed funeral directors from a single mid-western state in the US completed a web-based questionnaire. Data analysis involved reading each of the responses several times, initial coding, reviewing for similarities, clustering themes based on similarity, review, and final theme labelling. Results: The funeral directors provided observations, opinions and recommendations concerning effectiveness in relation to: body positioning; the use of ligatures and ties to secure extremities: removal or leaving in place of intravenous catheters and lines and surgical tubes and drains; removal or retention in the mouth of dentures and partial plates; cleansing of the body; and identification and shrouding of the body. Conclusions: The findings suggest that postmortem/last offices nursing care practices need to be considered carefully and be based on individual assessment. The participants’ general consensus regarding physical aspects of postmortem/last offices nursing care were largely in agreement with the nursing care practices that they typically observe. However, there were discrepancies that require further investigation. Conflicts of interest: none Acknowledgements: The author wishes to acknowledge the Indiana Funeral Directors Association for its invaluable assistance with contacting study participants

  • Contributors

    Dr Mikel W Hand


    Correct at article publish date

    Dr Mikel W Hand, Assistant Professor of Nursing, College of Nursing and Health Professions, University of Southern Indiana, Evansville. Email:

    Original publishing information

    • Publisher: St Christopher's Hospice
    • Publish date: 01/01/2013
    • Volume: 3
    • Issue: 4

    Permissions: © 2015, Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to

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