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Childbearing women's experiences of midwives' workplace distress: Patient and public involvement

02 October 2018
Volume 26 · Issue 10



Some midwives experience work-related psychological distress. This can reduce the quality and safety of maternity services, yet there are few interventions to support midwives.


To explore and voice the perceptions of new mothers in relation to the barriers to receiving high-quality maternity care, the psychological wellbeing of midwives and the development and evaluation of an online intervention designed to support them. GRIPP2 reporting checklists were also used to demonstrate how patient and public involvement works in research.


A co-design approach was used in a discussion group to collect qualitative data from 10 participants. A framework approach was used for analysis.


Unique findings included midwives crying, becoming emotional and seeking support from service users. Overall, seven patient and public involvement outcomes relating to intervention development and data collection were identified.


Maternity service improvement strategies may only be wholly effective once they include the provision of effective midwifery workplace support.

The wellbeing of health professionals can be linked with the quality and safety of healthcare services (Hall et al, 2016; Royal College of Physicians, 2016). Midwives in particular can experience a range of work-related psychological distress and are more likely than other health professionals to report feeling pressured at work (Pezaro et al, 2015; National Maternity Review, 2016). The significance of this issue has been recognised, as workforce research is now listed as one of the most prominent global research priorities for the international midwifery community (Soltani et al, 2016).

In light of this, any work-related psychological distress that may be affecting the quality and safety of maternity care must be explored and addressed. Psychological distress can be defined as a unique, discomforting, emotional state experienced by an individual in response to a specific stressor or demand, which results in harm, either temporary or permanent, to the person (Ridner, 2004). In the case of defining work-related psychological distress, we propose that the ‘specific stressor’ would therefore need to be work-related. A recent report from the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) has explored women's experiences of maternity services and recommended that staff burnout be prevented and addressed (Plotkin, 2017). However, women's experiences of work-related psychological distress in midwifery populations specifically has yet to be explored as a research problem in need of an evidence-based solution.

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