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Minerva Psichiatrica 2014 June;55(2):57-68


language: English

Perinatal loss from the health workers point of view: perception and reaction to an unexpected and potentially traumatic event

Gandino G. 1, Anfossi M. 2, Vanni I. 1, Loera B. 1

1 Department of Psychology, Turin University, Turin, Italy; 2 S. Croce e Carle General Hospital, Cuneo, Italy


AIM: The research study aims to provide a systematic description about how health care operators working in Maternity Units handle perinatal loss, useful to identify critical issues and carry out psychological interventions in order to provide support for health care personnel.
METHODS: Data was obtained from 485 sanitary operators, subdivided into two groups, physicians and medical staff (obstetricians, nurses and ward orderlies), currently working in maternity units of 16 Piedmont hospitals using a standard questionnaire format. The instrument has a burnout scale (MBI-HSS) and closed ended questions on how the personnel perceive their experiences with respect to perinatal loss and assigning tasks within the team.
RESULTS: There are significant differences between physicians and medical staff with respect to handling perinatal loss. Physicians feel they are prepared to cope with the event, even though they have not received a great deal of training. Whenever perinatal loss occurs tasks dealing with emotional distress are mostly assigned to nurses and ward orderlies. The sample shows a burnout profile that is different to the Italian socio-sanitary personnel one: the levels of emotional exhaustion and depersonalization are lower, whereas the level of professional realization is higher. The levels of burnout vary depending on both the number of professional work years and perinatal losses they have had to cope with.
CONCLUSION: Maternity units are protective areas where wellbeing at work prevails. However, when appropriate professional support is lacking, healthcare workers may experience high emotional costs when dealing with a stressful events and support to mothers and family members may be ineffective.

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