The Obstetric Registered Nurse's Lived Experience of Birth Trauma


Poster Presentation


To explore the obstetric nurse's lived experience with birth trauma. In general, nurses exposed to trauma during the course of their work or who care for traumatized patients are often at risk for mental, physical, and emotional problems, but little research about this phenomenon exists specific to the obstetric nurse population. Birth trauma has been defined as an event during the labor and delivery process involving an actual or threatened serious injury or death to the mother or her infant. Events can range from pain during labor to fetal or maternal death. Exposure to such trauma may have a significant effect on obstetric nurses and their ability to care for birthing women. By exploring the experience of trauma from the perspective of obstetric nurses, we can identify ways to improve the hospital environment for obstetric nurses, birthing women, and others involved in the birthing process.


A qualitative, hermeneutical phenomenologic design.


Four participants were recruited and interviewed in Chicago, IL.


Eligible participants (a) worked full-time in an obstetric environment of a hospital for at least 1 year within the last 5 years; (b) had an experience with birth trauma while working in such a setting; (c) speak, read, and write in English; and (d) were able to participate in a face-to-face interview in the Chicago area. Pregnant women were excluded from this study.


After obtaining informed consent, each subject was interviewed and asked to describe in detail one or more birth trauma events she experienced while caring for a woman during the birthing process. The interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed as were the researcher's own postinterview summary notes.


Analysis revealed themes surrounding the experience of birth trauma among the participants such as “It shapes who you are,” which reflects how nurses are changed personally and professionally from their trauma experiences. The themes illustrate immediate and long-term meanings of what it is like to be an obstetric nurse affected by trauma.

Conclusion/Implications for Nursing Practice

Though future studies are needed to explore a broader definition of trauma experiences for obstetric nurses, these results will challenge researchers, hospital management, nurse educators, and nurses themselves to consider the personal and professional implications of trauma exposure in obstetric nursing practice.