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Nurses deeply affected by young patient death

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Nurses and other clinical staff can be deeply affected by the death of a patient, especially a young one, UK research has confirmed.

Researchers from the University of Leicester surveyed a total of 340 nurses, midwives and doctors working in obstetrics and gynaecology at two trusts.

The survey focused on their experiences of distress when caring for families that had lost infants. It found that 55% of respondents experienced subjective stress levels that would provide a high level of clinical concern, with 24% having medium and 21% showing low levels.

Additionally, the survey suggested that senior and more experienced staff could be affected as much as junior colleagues.

‘Feeling distressed or overwhelmed as a result of being faced with such events could be seen as a normal part of this work,’ the authors said.

‘However, this study has shown that staff who experience such feelings go on to suffer significant levels of subjective stress.’

They added: ‘Staff who perceive that they have been unable to manage their reactions to the loss may feel that they have compromised their professional position in some way.’

Study co-author Dr Sonya Wallbank cited a case of a midwife who experienced the death of a child during a ‘straightforward’ delivery, which had resulted in her feeling anxious during almost any delivery, including those considered routine.

Sue Bennion, senior midwife at Leicester Royal Infirmary, one of the hospitals involved in the study, said: ‘We welcome this insightful research.’

Dr Wallbank added that she had continued her research with one of the trusts and provided a pilot service to support staff experiencing distress.

‘The effectiveness of this service against a control group was shown to be successful and we are now putting a bid together for the recruitment of a clinical psychologist to work on a more permanent basis with the obstetrics team,’ she said.

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