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Burnout: Midwifery’s Occupational Hazard

by Cassie Moore, ACNM Writer and Editor

Over the course of her 16-year career, Rebeca Barroso, CNM, has seen a lot of burnout and attrition among her colleagues. “Of my original five- or six-people study group of classmates, I’m the only one who’s still practicing,” she says.

So Barroso decided to study burnout among midwives when she entered the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Frontier Nursing University in 2010. Her research, which she expects to publish soon, is proving to be highly relevant to the midwifery community and won her the W. Newton Long Fund Award from the A.C.N.M. Foundation this year.

To keep her numbers manageable, Barroso surveyed midwives in one state, Pennsylvania, and got a huge response—78% of ACNM members in that state were willing to talk about burnout.

“That in and of itself said that it is an issue that is begging to be addressed widely,” says Barroso.

She used the Maslach Burnout Inventory questionnaire, which assesses burnout on three levels: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (an unfeeling and impersonal response toward recipients of one's care treatment), and personal accomplishment (or lack thereof).

She found that more than half of the midwives surveyed were moderately to highly emotionally exhausted.

“Excessive workloads, having difficulties with child care, and lack of support contributed toward it,” she says.

Barroso says that burnout is far easier to prevent than it is to fix, and that she believes midwives need support, recognition, and manageable work schedules to truly thrive. For any midwife feeling the beginnings of burnout, Barroso says,Get help. Midwives need support, they need people within their own practice groups to help them, they need support from the other midwives in their locale, they need support from their affiliate, they need support from their national organization, they need support from educators. The thing that helps is not to be isolated.”

Have you or any of your colleagues ever felt burnt out? What did you do about it? How can ACNM support midwives who are burnt out or heading in that direction?

Image “Flame of Match” used with permission via.

Posted 8/23/2011 10:18:07 AM



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