Duties and Responsibilities of A Mortician:As a mortician, your role is to handle the delicate and sensitive work involved with preparing the deceased for burial or cremation. You serve an important function during an emotionally difficult time for loved ones.
Your duties require both technical skills as well as empathy, discretion, and care. Families rely on your expertise to ensure their loved one is treated with dignity and respect.
Preparing Bodies for Burial or Cremation
As a mortician, one of your primary responsibilities is preparing human remains for burial or cremation. This involves several important steps:
1. Cleaning and Sanitizing
Upon receiving remains, you must first clean and sanitize the body. Gently wash the remains to remove any bodily fluids or other debris. Treat any open wounds or orifices, and pack them to prevent leakage. Disinfect the remains to sanitize and prevent the spread of diseases.
2. Setting Features
Next, set the facial features of the remains in a peaceful expression. Gently manipulate the jaw, eyes, and other muscles to create a natural and dignified appearance. You may need to stitch the mouth closed or place eye caps beneath the eyelids to set the features.
3. Dressing and Casketing
Carefully dress the remains in the clothing requested by the family or according to the religious customs of the deceased. Place the dressed remains in a casket selected by the family. Ensure the body is positioned comfortably and presentably for viewing.
4. Embalming (Optional)
If the remains are to be viewed before burial, you will embalm them. Make a small incision to access arteries and inject embalming fluid to temporarily preserve the body.
Embalming sanitizes, disinfects, and restores a natural skin tone to the remains. You must take great care to minimize the appearance of embalming incisions and restore the body to as natural a state as possible.
Communicating With Grieving Families
As a mortician, communicating with grieving families is one of your most important and sensitive responsibilities. You must approach each family with compassion, respect, and care.
1. Handling Initial Contact
When a family first contacts your funeral home, express your condolences for their loss. Answer any questions about your services thoroughly and honestly. Schedule an in-person meeting as soon as possible.
2. Conducting Arrangements
Meet with the family to discuss arrangements. Explain the details of the services you offer, including embalming, viewing, burial, cremation, and memorial options. Provide price lists and literature on caskets, urns, and other items for their selection. Answer all questions patiently and without judgment.
3. Finalizing Details
Meet again with the family to finalize all service details. Review any special requests to ensure you fully understand them. Provide guidance on obituary notices, flowers, and other arrangements as needed. Reassure the family you will handle their loved one with dignity throughout the entire process.
4. Day of Services
On the day of services, arrive early to ensure everything is prepared properly. Greet the family and express your sympathy once more. During viewing and services, remain available to assist the family and address any last-minute needs. Your professionalism and care help comfort families during this difficult time.
In all communications, use a calm, gentle tone. Make eye contact, actively listen, and be fully present. Treat each family with empathy, compassion, and respect for their loss. Your sensitive communication and support can help ease the burden of grief.
Arranging Funerals and Memorial Services
As a mortician, arranging funerals and memorial services is one of your primary responsibilities. This involves handling all the logistics and details to properly memorialize the deceased.
1. Preparing the Body
Your first duty is preparing the remains for viewing and burial or cremation. This includes washing, embalming and dressing the body. You may need to reconstruct damaged remains or apply cosmetics for an open casket viewing. Ensure the remains meet legal requirements for burial or cremation.
2. Coordinating with Officiants
Contact the family’s preferred officiant, whether religious or non-religious, to coordinate the service. Go over the family’s wishes for the content and length of the eulogies or sermons. Discuss the sequence of events for the service. Arrange for any special music or multimedia tributes the family requests.
3. Handling Legal Documentation
There is considerable legal paperwork required when someone passes away. As the mortician, you must obtain copies of the death certificate and burial/cremation permits. Assist the family in notifying government agencies, banks, insurance companies and any other entities that may require notification of the person’s passing.
4. Transporting Remains
You are responsible for transporting the remains to and from your funeral home, as well as to the site of the service and final resting place. Ensure proper storage and climate control at all times to preserve the remains.
Some remains may need to be transported over long distances, so you must follow all laws regarding the transfer of human remains across local, state and national borders.
Maintaining Legal and Ethical Standards
As a mortician, you have legal and ethical obligations to fulfill. Following all laws and regulations regarding handling human remains is critical.
To practice as a mortician, you must obtain and maintain proper licensure for your state. This typically involves passing an exam on mortuary science and related laws. You must keep your license up to date with the required continuing education credits. Working without a valid license can result in legal consequences.
2. Proper Handling and Disposition
You must handle human remains with the utmost care, respect, and dignity at all times. Remains must be properly embalmed, prepared, and sheltered.
You must follow all laws regarding the transportation and final disposition of remains, whether through burial or cremation. Neglecting proper handling and disposition protocols would be unethical and illegal.
As a mortician, you often handle sensitive personal information about the deceased and their loved ones. It is imperative that you keep all such information strictly confidential, as required by law. Sharing private details or allowing unauthorized access to records would violate ethical standards and legal privacy laws.
4. Fraud Prevention
You must accurately represent the services and merchandise provided to client families. Inflating prices, charging for unprovided goods or services, or forging documents are examples of illegal and unethical acts of fraud that morticians must never commit. Engaging in fraudulent behavior erodes the integrity of the profession and is subject to legal punishment.
Managing Funeral Home Operations
As a mortician, you are responsible for managing all operations of the funeral home. This includes:
1. Staffing and Scheduling
You will hire, train, and supervise staff, including funeral directors, embalmers, and administrative assistants. Create work schedules to ensure enough staff are present for viewings, services, and to assist families. Provide guidance and feedback to help staff develop their skills.
2. Facility Management
You must oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the building and grounds. Arrange for regular cleaning, lawn mowing, snow removal, and repairs as needed. Ensure a respectful environment for grieving families. Manage relationships with contractors and vendors that provide goods and services.
3. Record Keeping and Accounting
Maintain accurate records of services provided and payments received. Issue invoices and receipts. Track expenditures and income to properly manage the budget. Pay vendors, staff, and contractors on time. File taxes and other required government paperwork.
Stay up-to-date with laws, regulations, and certifications required to operate a funeral home. Obtain proper licensure and accreditation. Ensure OSHA standards for workplace safety and health regulations are followed. Remain compliant with FTC rules on pricing disclosure and prohibitions on unfair/deceptive acts or practices.
As a mortician, you will likely encounter many questions from clients and their loved ones. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and how you can respond professionally:
1. What are a mortician’s primary responsibilities?
Your core duties center around preparing human remains for burial or cremation. This includes:
- Embalming and restoring the body to temporarily preserve it
- Dressing and applying cosmetics to make the deceased appear as natural as possible
- Arranging the body in a casket
- Transporting remains to a funeral home or place of worship for viewing and services
- Assisting families with paperwork like death certificates
You also help organize memorial services by setting up flowers, music, obituaries, and guest books. Your role is to handle all details with care, empathy and discretion during this difficult time.
2. Do morticians need any special licenses or certifications?
Yes, morticians must be licensed in their state. Requirements vary but usually involve coursework, internships, and passing an exam. Some states require additional certifications. Continuing education is typically needed to maintain licensure.
3. What is the job outlook for this field?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of morticians to grow about as fast as the average between 2019 and 2029. An aging population and increasing demand for cremation services may provide more job opportunities. However, the occupation is small, and keen competition is expected for salaried jobs at funeral homes. Self-employment as an independent contractor is common.
4. How much do morticians earn?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for morticians in the U.S. was $56,940 per year in 2019. Exact wages depend on factors like experience, education, licensing, location, and type of employment. Salaried morticians working in funeral homes typically earn between $35,000 to $75,000 annually. Self-employed morticians generally have the potential to earn $60,000 to $150,000 or more per year.
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