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Intrapartum Nurses' Lived Experience in a Traumatic Birthing Process

Goldbort, Joanne PhD, RN; Knepp, Amy MSN, RN, NP-C; Mueller, Carla PhD, RN; Pyron, Margie MS, RNC-OB, LCCE

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: November-December 2011 - Volume 36 - Issue 6 - p 373–380
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0b013e31822de535
Feature Article

Purpose To describe the essence of nine nurses' participation in an unexpected/traumatic birthing process to ascertain what impact this experience had on the nurse.

Study Design Descriptive phenomenology was the qualitative research design used.

Methods A four-person team analyzed the transcribed interviews of each nurse's experience using Colaizzi's method of analysis. We recruited nine intrapartum nurses from a call-out to Indiana Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses Section Chapter members.

Results One overarching theme, From Behind Closed Doors, and the following six subthemes described the essence of the participants' experiences: (1) Feeling the Chaos; (2) Expect the Unexpected; (3) It's Hard to Forget; (4) All Hands on Deck; (5) Becoming; and (6) For the Love of OB (Obstetrics).

Clinical Implications Intrapartum nurses in this study clearly demonstrated that the impact of an unexpected event can be emblazoned on one's memory for many years, with an immediate response of secondary traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

We know that traumatic births affect the mothers and families involved, but what happens to the nurses who are working with these mothers?

Joanne Goldbort is the Director of Maternal & Child Services, Union Hospital, Inc., Terre Haute, IN. She can be reached via e-mail at

Amy Knepp is the Chairperson and an Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, IN.

Carla Mueller is a Professor in the Department of Nursing, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, IN.

Margie Pyron is a Clinical Nurse Specialist at Women and Children's Services, Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital, Muncie, IN.

Funding for this research was provided by the Institute for Action Research in Community Health (IARCH), Indiana University School of Nursing, Indianapolis, IN.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.