Burnout: Lessons From the Lived Experience of Case Loading Midwives

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Abstract

Workplace burnout is a worldwide phenomenon that is little understood within the New Zealand midwifery work force, yet on call, client focused practice may carry a high potential for it. This qualitative study takes a phenomenological approach drawing primarily on the philosophy of Heidegger and Gadamer and considers burnout among New Zealand Lead Maternity Care (LMC) midwives. It asks the question “What lessons can be learned?” Ethical approval was granted for this study which involved interviewing 12 participant LMC midwives who self-identified as having experienced professional burnout. Four of their partners were interviewed with the midwives permission to allow another perspective. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data was analyzed using a phenomenological approach set in context with associated literature. The experience of professional burnout for the participants in this study was one of extreme personal pain which some felt they may never recover from. Despite global recognition of the destructive phenomenon of burnout, participants consistently described not understanding what was happening to them. They felt judged as managing their practices poorly, the isolating feelings of shame prevented disclosing their escalating need for help. Understanding burnout enables case loading midwives to recognize that their working environment may place them at risk.

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