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Giving of the self and Midwife Burnout – An exploration of the consequences of being ‘with woman’ and how individual midwives can reduce or prevent burnout

Published:December 15, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2022.12.002

      Abstract

      Background

      The emotional nature of midwifery practice has been described by several researchers and midwives have reported extremely high burnout levels. Burnout is dynamic and effects individual midwives differently, depending on individual coping abilities and demographic and contextual factors. However, midwives themselves can reduce burnout at an individual level.

      Aim

      This study aimed to explore the concept of burnout with midwives and to ascertain their perspectives on how burnout can be reduced. This paper presents findings in relation to individual midwives’ responsibilities for the reduction of burnout.

      Methods

      This was a Participatory Action Research study. A total of 5 co-operative inquiry meetings were held with practising midwives (n = 21) over a six-month period (October 2018 - March 2019), in a large, urban teaching maternity hospital in Ireland. Data was analysed using Thematic Network Analysis.

      Findings

      Midwives explored in detail the emotional nature of midwifery practice and how this contributes upon midwives’ burnout levels. Recommendations were made for individuals to reduce their own burnout levels. These include self-awareness and basic self-care skills. Some specific individual characteristics were suggested as increasing the risk of burnout such as younger, less experienced midwives.

      Conclusion and recommendations

      Midwives require high levels of self-awareness to identify external demands, which make them more susceptible to burnout, and utilise their own positive coping mechanisms. Basic self-care is also necessary for midwife well-being. However, without commitment from healthcare systems to reduce chronic excessive workload, burnout levels will remain high, which impacts negatively on midwives and the women in their care.

      Keywords

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