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Debriefing to Help Perinatal Nurses Cope With a Maternal Loss

Dietz, Deborah MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: July-August 2009 - Volume 34 - Issue 4 - p 243–248
doi: 10.1097/01.NMC.0000357917.41100.c5
Feature article

The death of a mother in a perinatal unit is a devastating event for the family and for the perinatal staff. An unexpected maternal death may be considered a critical incident, requiring leadership to reflect on the emotional well-being of all the staff who were involved in the patient's care. In order to assist staff in coping with the impact of a maternal loss, the organization and leadership team can apply the principles of debriefing, during which an expert in crisis intervention works to help the group recognize both healthy and unhealthy coping skills, and follows up with affected individuals who require ongoing help. This article presents a review of different techniques of debriefing, applies debriefing to maternal loss, and provides a review of coping skills for nurses. The leadership team's support is essential to promoting healthy coping and emotional healing when a tragedy occurs on the perinatal unit.

We all hope we'll never have to deal with a maternal death, but even this rare event happens sometimes. How can leadership nurses help staff to cope with a disaster such as this?

Deborah Dietz is with the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, Labor and Delivery, High Risk Antepartum, OB Triage. She can be reached via e-mail at

The author has disclosed that there are no financial relationships related to this article.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.