‘I might have cried in the changing room, but I still went to work’. Maternity staff balancing roles, responsibilities, and emotions of work and home during COVID-19: An appreciative inquiry

Rachel Arnold, Edwin van Teijlingen, Sue Way, Preeti Mahato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Problem: Knowing how to help staff thrive and remain in practice in maternity services.
Background: A chronic shortage of staff in maternity services in the United Kingdom and high levels of stress and burnout in midwifery and medical staff.
Purpose: To understand how to support and enhance the wellbeing of staff in a small UK maternity service.
Methods: An appreciative inquiry using interviews with n = 39 maternity staff and n = 4 group discussions exploring meaningful experiences, values and factors that helped their wellbeing.
Results: Staff members were highly motivated, managing a complex melee of emotions and responsibilities including challenges to professional confidence, mental health, family situation, and conflict between work-life roles. Despite staff shortages, a demanding workload, professional and personal turmoil, and the pandemic
participants still found meaning in their work and relationships.
Discussion: A ‘whole person’ approach provided insight into the multiple stressors and emotional demands staff faced. It also revealed staff resourcefulness in managing their professional and personal roles. They invested in
relationships with women but were also aware of their limits - the need to be self-caring, employ strategies to switch-off, set boundaries or keep a protective distance.
Conclusion: Staff wellbeing initiatives, and research into wellbeing, would benefit from adopting a holistic approach that incorporates home and family with work. Research on emotion regulation strategies could provide
insights into managing roles, responsibilities, and the emotional demands of working in maternity services. Emotion regulation strategies could be included in midwifery and obstetric training.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalWoman and Birth
Early online date9 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Aug 2023

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