• post-partum depression;
  • on-line education;
  • nurse;
  • diagnoses;
  • intervention;
  • Iceland

Scand J Caring Sci; 2012; 26; 494–504

Evaluation of the clinical effect of an on-line course for community nurses on post-partum emotional distress: a community-based longitudinal time-series quasi-experiment

About 14% of Icelandic women suffer post-partum from frequent depressive symptoms, and of those, 12% also report a high degree of parenting stress. Education of nurses and midwives on post-partum distress is crucial in reducing its degree. The purpose of the study is to evaluate the clinical effect of an on-line course for community nurses on post-partum emotional distress. A community-based, longitudinal, time-series quasi-experiment was conducted in four stages from 2001 to 2005. Mothers attending 16 health centres throughout Iceland and scoring ≥12 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at the 9th week post-partum were eligible to participate. Health centres were divided into experimental (EHC) and control centres (CHC), and control centres were crossed over to experimental centres the following year and new control centres recruited. Nurses at EHC attended an on-line course on post-partum emotional distress. Participating mothers answered the EPDS; the Parenting Stress Index/Short form and the Fatigue Scale. Nursing diagnoses and interventions were recorded at all study centres. Of the women who were eligible (n = 163), 57% (n = 93) participated. At baseline, 9 weeks post-partum, there were no significant differences between groups of women in the rate of depressive symptoms, fatigue or parenting stress. Women in all groups improved on all distress indicators over time; however, those from the EHC improved statistically and clinically significantly more on depressive symptoms than those from the CHC. Documentation of particular nursing diagnoses and interventions was significantly more frequent at the EHC, but referrals to specialists were significantly less frequent. On-line education for nurses on post-partum emotional distress is feasible and is related to improvement in post-partum depressive symptoms.