A participatory action research study exploring midwives’ understandings of the concept of burnout in Ireland



      In depth exploration of the burnout phenomenon among midwives is sparse. The concept has been extensively studied, but predominantly reports rates and evaluates interventions to reduce burnout. A definition has yet to be offered in the literature from a midwifery perspective.


      To explore midwives’ understandings of burnout, professionally and personally, in the context of contemporary maternity care in Ireland.


      This was a Two-phase Participatory Action Research study. Five co-operative inquiry meetings were held with practising midwives (n = 21) over a six-month period between October 2018 and March 2019, in a large, urban teaching maternity hospital in Dublin, Ireland.


      We found that multiple factors contributed to midwives’ perceptions and understandings of the concept of burnout. Midwives defined burnout as persistent stress and exhaustion, with an associated reduction of their individual coping abilities, motivation, empathy and/or efficacy, is unique to the individual and is primarily, in the midwifery context, caused and inextricably linked to excessive workload.


      Burnout is a complex concept with many entities and its significance and impact within the midwifery profession highlights the importance of its exploration and understanding. This study is the first of its kind to explore, with midwives, the concept of burnout. The elements of stress and exhaustion in the definition mirror existing definitions in the literature.


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