High burnout for staff at CUMH delivery wards

High levels of burnout and compassion fatigue have been found among medical staff in delivery wards at Cork University Maternity Hospital.

High burnout for staff at CUMH delivery wards

High levels of burnout and compassion fatigue have been found among medical staff in delivery wards at Cork University Maternity Hospital.

A new study of midwives and trainee obstetricians and gynaecologists working in delivery wards at CUMH found 45% were experiencing high levels of emotional exhaustion and another 42.5% reported moderate levels of emotional exhaustion.

The study, which involved 18 trainee doctors and 30 midwives, was carried out by researchers from the Pregnancy Loss Research Group at University College Cork.

It showed almost eight out of 10 staff had above-average levels of perceived stress. High levels of compassion fatigue were found in 31% of respondents. Compassion fatigue is a form of burnout which often affects people in caring roles.

The study noted many staff, while experiencing impaired wellbeing, also felt a high sense of personal accomplishment and compassion satisfaction.

It found trials on interventions designed to reduce the potential for stress and burnout had limited success. Short, work-focused, discussion groups were held for midwives at the end of a shift in the delivery ward to “recognise and reflect” but were discontinued after five weeks.

The average attendance rate at the 20 sessions held was 50% of staff who had been working that day.

While staff said the discussion groups allowed an opportunity to support colleagues and was a time to destress and debrief, they also claimed they were held at an inopportune time.

The report concluded such meetings, which were held at the end of a 12-hour shift, were not feasible for long-term implementation.

Midwives said they were eager to return home at that stage and reported being “exhausted and slow to talk”.

However, the study noted that most participants viewed them as a positive experience. The study, published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science, said low levels of participation in interventions introduced to provide support to staff represented a challenge.

Nevertheless, it found a significant decrease in burnout levels among midwives as a result of interventions.

However, it said a small sample size and poor response rate to a post-intervention survey meant it could not make any conclusions about their impact on staff wellbeing.

Researchers said the study was carried out as there is an increasing body of research which indicates staff working in obstetrics and gynaecology suffer stress, burnout and compassion fatigue.

However, it said it was still unclear what strategies of intervention to improve well being were the most effective.

Researchers noted healthcare staff already reported not having enough time with their families with many working in obstetrics and gynaecology unsatisfied with their work-life balance.

Approximately 8,200 babies are born at CUMH each year on average.

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