1. Lewis, Judith A. PhD, RN, WHNP-BC, FAAN

Article Content

Roehrs, C., Masterson, A., Alles, R., Witt, C., & Rutt, P. (2008).Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 37(6), 631-639.


While there have been studies and clinical reports that have provided us with guidelines to provide effective care for families undergoing stillbirth or fetal demise, there have been few studies that focused on the nurses providing care to these families. It has been noted that some nurses are able to provide comprehensive, quality, sensitive care to bereaved families in labor, other nurses are sufficiently uncomfortable with this experience that they are barely able to provide the physical care required. The objective of this qualitative descriptive study was to describe the support needs and comfort levels of labor nurses caring for families experiencing perinatal loss. The participants were 10 of the 35 labor nurses who all worked on the same unit in a hospital in the western United States that performed approximately 200 deliveries a month. The hospital had a perinatal bereavement program in place that included appropriate policies and procedures, a cart containing supplies that were helpful in providing care to the families, such as cameras, film, and materials to make plaster molds of the baby's feet; clothing and bassinettes, and a serenity room that was reserved for the use of grieving families. Three of the 10 nurses who participated in the study had themselves experienced perinatal loss. The results of the study were reviewed with the participants, who confirmed the accuracy of the results. Themes identified included focusing on the care the patient needs; finding support while providing care; recovering after providing care, how to assign nursing staff to providing bereavement care; how to avoid compromising care; and how to become more comfortable and knowledgeable about the care. While the sample was small and the nurses who participated were from a single unit, the need for education about providing care to these families was clear. Nurses noted that the experience made them sad and the work was difficult, but they felt like they were making a positive difference for the families with whom they worked. The nurses emphasized the need for peer support, education, experience caring for these families, and effective coping strategies to help them deal with the experience in a positive way were all important in helping them provide quality care to these vulnerable families.