The erratic pathway to regaining a professional self-image after an obstetric work-related trauma: A grounded theory study

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Background: It is known that healthcare providers might be affected by severe medical events in which patients are badly hurt. In birth care, escalating situations can result in death or injury to a mother or new-born child. Objective: To explore the process that Swedish midwives and obstetricians go through after a severe event in the maternity unit. Design: A modified Constructivist Grounded Theory analysis, based on fourteen in-depth interviews with birth care professionals. Participants: Seven midwives and seven obstetricians. Results: A core category, ˈregaining of a professional self-imageˈ, was constructed and interpreted as being constituted of six main categories illustrating a frequently erratic pathway to the regaining of a professional self-image. The process included a search for external acceptance for the re-establishment of belongingness by obtaining corroboration from the woman, work colleagues and manager, and the medico-legal system. Media exposure was invariably seen as something negative. Internal processes involved coping with emotions of guilt and shame and the vulnerability that the work entails, as well as contemplating future work. The possibility to fully regain one's professional self-image depended on having a sense of confidence and an urge to support others in similar situations by sharing gained insights. However, the process could also result in reconsidering one's professional self-image by setting up boundaries, creating a better work-life balance, or creating mental back-up plans in case of similar recurrences. For others, the process led to a change of professional identity and a search for roles away from emergency obstetrics or the specialty as such. Conclusions: Many midwives and obstetricians will experience severe obstetric events that might affect them, sometimes severely. The vulnerability that healthcare professionals are exposed to should not be underestimated and preparedness in terms of collegial support, as well as an awareness in the workplace of how badly affected employees might be, is important. Growth as well as leaving birth care can be the results of the process following a severe event.


Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • Uppsala universitet, Historiska institutionen
  • Ystad Hospital

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Omvårdnad
  • Reproduktionsmedicin och gynekologi


Sidor (från-till)53-61
Antal sidor9
TidskriftInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
StatusPublished - 2019
Peer review utfördJa