Background: Respectful care of bereaved parents after stillbirth plays a pivotal role in enabling the grieving process and reducing the traumatic impact of this life-changing event. Unfortunately, professionals and midwives, in particular, are often emotionally unprepared and frequently left alone when dealing with these stressful events.
Aim: The BLOSSoM (Burnout after perinatal LOSS in Midwifery) study aims to address the levels of professional burnout in Italian midwives and evaluate the psychological impact of bereavement care on professionals.
Methods: Web-based cross-sectional study, including socio-demographic questionnaire, survey on the knowledge of guidelines for stillbirth management and two psychometric tests: Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) and Impact of Event Scale - Revised (IES-R).
Findings: Of 445 female midwives, mean age 35.1 (SD 9.9), working years 11.2 (SD 10.2), 149 (33.4%) reported specific training on stillbirth and 420 (94.6%) highlighted the need for further training and support. Medium to high levels of burnout (Emotional Exhaustion) were present in 65 midwives (15.9%) with a high prevalence of Reduced Personal Accomplishment (292, 64.2%). 'Communicating the diagnosis of death' was considered the hardest task, followed by 'assisting the meeting with the baby'; 109 midwives (24.5%) reported high IES-R scores (>30), suggesting symptoms of PTSD related to stillbirth events; a good level of knowledge of guidelines favoured Personal Accomplishment (OR 0.3 [0.1 - 0.6]). The number of stillbirths assisted by midwives was not associated with burnout levels.
Conclusion: Midwives are particularly at risk of developing professional burnout, as early as after five years of work, with a significant association with the psychological impact exerted by stressful events (stillbirth).
Keywords: Burnout; Guidelines; Midwives; PTSD; Stillbirth.
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