Vicarious Posttraumatic Growth in Labor and Delivery Nurses

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To investigate vicarious posttraumatic growth in labor and delivery nurses who cared for women during traumatic births.


A convergent parallel mixed-methods design was used.


The sample consisted of 467 labor and delivery nurses who completed the quantitative portion and 295 (63%) who completed the qualitative portion of this mixed-methods study via the Internet.


The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses sent out e-mails to members who were labor and delivery nurses with a link to the electronic survey. Labor and delivery nurses completed the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory and the Core Beliefs Inventory in the quantitative portion. For the qualitative portion, the nurses were asked to describe their experiences of any positive changes in their beliefs or life as a result of their care for women during traumatic births.


Labor and delivery nurses who cared for women during traumatic births reported a moderate amount of vicarious posttraumatic growth as indicated by their Posttraumatic Growth Inventory scores. Appreciation of Life was the dimension of the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory that reflected the highest growth, followed by Relating to Others, Personal Strength, Spiritual Change, and New Possibilities. In the qualitative findings, Relating to Others was also the dimension of posttraumatic growth most frequently described.


We compared our results with those of previous studies in which researchers assessed vicarious posttraumatic growth in clinicians, and we found that labor and delivery nurses who cared for women during traumatic births experienced growth levels that were scored between the lowest and highest reported levels of therapists and social workers. Nurses need to be aware of the potential to experience this growth despite the significant stress and unpredictability of the labor and delivery environment, which could decrease burnout and improve retention rates.

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