Research

Research Funded by the NYS Tribute Foundation

Columbia University Explores Funeral Service Recruitment and Retention

Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health completed a national, Web-based survey of 42 questions to assess the pandemic preparedness in the death care profession in the United States.

The University received responses from 492 individuals – 77 percent of whom were funeral directors in 46 states – as well as professionals from all areas in the death care sector, for the School’s study, “Pandemic Influenza Preparedness in Funeral Service and Allied Professons.”

New York State Funeral Directors Association (NYSFDA) Board member, Martin D. Kasdan and New York State Tribute Foundation Family Assistance Commission (FAC) and NYSFDA member, Edward Mockler were presenters for the Emergency Preparedness in the Death Care Sector Conference’s panel discussion, facilitated by Dr. David Abramson, Director of Research for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

Also included were: Regina Smith, Academic Dean and Chief Academic Officer of the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service; and John Toale, President and CEO of the Woodlawn Cemetery.

Their discussion focused on preparedness planning challenges and current best practices, and sought to identify research gaps and opportunities for improvements in preparedness planning at multiple levels. Scheduled, but unable to attend to serve on the panel, was NYSFDA Board member and FAC Chair, Douglas R. Brueggemann.

Brueggemann had been activated earlier in the day for DMORT duties in Joplin, MO, following the devastating tornado that leveled the town, and took more than 120 lives.

Dr.Robyn Gershon, Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences, at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health shared their findings on May 24, 2011 during the Conference hosted by the Mailman School’s Department of Sociomedical Sciences and co-sponsored by the New York State Tribute Foundation.

The Conference brought together more than three dozen working in the field to discuss related issues.

Survey Respondent Highlights

  • 60% are on call 24/7
  • 87% are affiliated with a trade organization (such as NYSFDA or NFDA)
  • 9% are DMORT members
  • 12% are emergency response volunteers
  • 78% of death care professionals were willing to assist other sectors during an emergency
  • 87% of retired funeral professionals were willing to assist sector during an emergency
  • 96% of mortuary students were willing to assist sector during an emergency

According to researchers, the sample was highly motivated (with levels similar to physicians and EMS).

“The New York State Tribute Foundation was pleased to assist the University with this important research study,” said Richard J. Sullivan, Board chair of the New York State Tribute Foundation.

“The Mailman School of Public Health is a world renowned leader in education,” Sullivan said.

This study was generously funded by the New York State Tribute Foundation, the Funeral Service Foundation, and the International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards.

Founded in 1922 as one of the first three public health academies in the nation, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting New Yorkers, the nation and the world.


Recruitment and Retention: The State of the Funeral Industry

February 2009 – Beginning in the summer of 2005, the New York State Funeral Directors Association, Inc. (NYSFDA), assembled a collaboration of six state funeral directions associations (FDAs), including the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts and New York for the purpose of engaging in a longitudinal study of both FDA members and non-members and their employees, by means of a web-based survey.

Between the summer of 2005 and early fall 2008, eight surveys were disseminated by NYSFDA. In each case the data was tabulated, analyzed, and presented to all Funeral Directors Associations and participants by the Siena College Research Institute of Loudonville, New York.

Purpose of the study:

  • To understand the current state of the funeral industry by providing funeral owners and employees to be counted and to express their experiences, attitudes and opinions on significant components of the industry, including job satisfaction, salary, gender and racial dynamics, best practices, and future directions.
  • To investigate issues of recruitment and retention of funeral home owners and employees and, in so doing, provide useful feedback and recommendations to the industry.

This final report summarizes the eight studies. Additionally, this report comments on the state of the funeral industry and drawing from the data, makes recommendations about the future of the industry.

Specifically, this report calls for:

  • Enhanced recruitment of funeral industry employees based upon identifying appropriate candidates and providing them with opportunities for training, advancement, and ownership.
  • Renewed efforts to meet evolving client needs through innovation, modernization, and multi-cultural accommodation; and
  • Efforts to retain the family-like business model so prevalent in the industry while incorporating the growing diversity of employees by gender, race and ethnicity.
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