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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Effects of perinatal loss on British Columbian obstetric nurses Devic, Adisa


Background: Perinatal loss is a common occurrence on obstetric units. The effects of perinatal loss are far reaching and have profound effects on the families experiencing it, and on the nurses who care for them. Explorations of what exactly these effects are on the nursing staff providing bereavement care is lacking. Purpose: To explore the experiences of obstetric nurses who have provided care to families undergoing a perinatal loss. Methods: A qualitative descriptive design informed by principles of interpretive phenomenology was used to explore the effects of perinatal loss on nurses. A purposive sampling technique included eight nurses. Open-ended questions using a semi-structured approach guided the interviews. Results: The eight nurses interviewed were unanimous in their descriptions of how the lack of support and time to care for families experiencing perinatal loss significantly impacted their own experiences of providing care. Both positive and negative experiences were shared about the impacts of perinatal loss; yet when support and time were lacking, participants reported significant negative effects. Conversely, when nurses had adequate supports in place and the time to spend with their bereaved patient, as well as time for self-care, positive experiences were described. Finally, participants described perinatal bereavement work as highly valuable work, for which their involvement was considered a privilege. Implications: This study highlights the importance of education, preparation and support for nurses within the context of perinatal loss. The study findings point to the importance of resourcing support and prioritizing the time needed for nurses to minimize the negative effects of caring for families experiencing perinatal loss. It also highlights that strategies need to be in place for nurses to support each other to promote experiences that are more positive. Nurse leaders emerged in the study as a significant resource for shaping a climate of care and perinatal practice to mitigate the negative effects described in the literature and this study, while also advocating for the necessary resources, time and nurse-to-nurse support that can facilitate meaningful work for nurses as they care for families experiencing perinatal loss.

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