Nursing students’ experiences of caring for women with stillbirths at public hospitals in Gauteng Province, South Africa
Nursing students are expected to support women after a stillbirth, while they themselves experience difficulties to deal with the emotional impact of a stillbirth. The objective of this article is to explore and describe nursing students’ experiences of caring for women with stillbirths at public hospitals in South Africa. A qualitative approach was used to conduct a descriptive, explorative and contextual study. The population consisted of all nursing students registered for the Diploma in Nursing allocated to the obstetric sections of five public hospitals in Gauteng Province, South Africa. Purposive sampling was used to select 30 nursing students who had taken care of women who experienced stillbirths. Five focus groups and reflective journals were used to collect data. Data was analysed according to Tesch’s method by the researcher and an independent coder. Psychologically nursing students experienced emotional trauma and overwhelming feelings of guilt, helplessness, and anxiety. They struggled with emotional conflict related to the expression of compassion and were faced with certain dilemmas in caring for women after stillbirths. Recommendations were formulated to make provision for availability of bereavement and emotional support of nursing students when exposed to stillbirths.
Keywords: Nursing student, stillbirth, bereavement, obstetric nursing care.