Modeling pathways to describe how maternal health care providers’ mental health influences the provision of respectful maternity care in Malawi

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Introduction: Maternal health (MH) providers may experience traumatic events, such as maternal or fetal death, that can contribute to stress and burnout. Past trauma, poor working relationships, and under-resourced environments not only affect providers’ own emotional well-being but also reduce their ability to provide respectful maternity care (RMC). Methods: Data were collected in mid-2021 as a cross-sectional survey with 302 MH providers working in 25 maternities in 3 districts in Malawi to measure burnout, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We present a pathway model describing how these factors interact and influence RMC. We used the provider-reported person-centered maternity care scale to measure RMC; the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which examines emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and professional accomplishment; and standard validated screening tools to measure the prevalence of depression and PTSD. Results: Although levels of burnout varied, 30% of MH providers reported high levels of exhaustion, feelings of cynicism manifesting as depersonalization toward their clients (17%), and low levels of professional accomplishment (42%). Moderate to severe depression (9%) and suicidal ideation within the past 2 weeks (10%) were also recorded. Many (70%) reported experiencing an event that could trigger PTSD, and 12% reported at least 4 of 5 symptoms in the PTSD scale. Path analysis suggests that depression and emotional exhaustion negatively influence RMC, and depersonalization is mediated through depression. PTSD has no direct effect on RMC, but increased PTSD scores were associated with increased burnout and depression scores. Positive relationships with facility managers were significantly associated with increased RMC and decreased emotional exhaustion and depersonalization. Conclusion: Burnout will continue to be a challenge among MH providers. However, pragmatic approaches for improving teamwork, psychosocial, and managerial support for MH providers working in challenging environments may help mitigate burnout, improve MH provider well-being, and, in turn, RMC for women seeking MH services.






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