Student midwives frequently encounter bereaved parents as part of their experience in clinical practice. Yet many students report feeling unprepared and anxious when caring for them during this difficult time . Consequently, midwifery students often lack the necessary skills in communicating with bereaved parents and providing emotional support which can impact on the quality of care that parents receive . The evidence on how best to educate and train students in this aspect of care is limited both in scope and quality . Therefore, this study explored student midwives lived experience of participating in an immersive, unfolding bereavement scenario based on a real clinical situation using standardised patients.
Interpretative Phenomenology was employed to collect and analyse data from semi-structured interviews conducted with a sample of nine student midwives. Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory was also used as a lens to analyse the data.
Three key super-ordinate themes emerged from analysis of the data. Firstly, ‘a rollercoaster of emotions’ captured the complexity of feelings and emotions the students experienced as they encountered the bereaved parents for the first time. Secondly, ‘trying to console and making things easier’ depicted the deep sense of powerlessness and the professional dilemmas experienced as the students struggled to emotionally console and communicate the right words to say to the grieving parents. Thirdly, ‘a unique learning experience’ conceptualised the students’ transformational journey as they critically reflected on significant aspects of their learning, identifying the professional and personal insights that would enable them to provide effective care.
The findings of the study highlight the powerful role of simulation as an experiential model of teaching bereavement care within undergraduate midwifery education that can transform student midwives’ ability to provide compassionate care to bereaved parents during this traumatic time.
1. McKenna L, Rolls C. Undergraduate midwifery students’ first experiences with stillbirth and neonatal death. Contemporary nurse. 2011;38(1–2):76–83.
2. Ockenden D. Ockenden report. Emerging findings and recommendations from the Independent Review of maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. APS group on behalf of the Controller of Her Majesty Stationery Office. 2020 Dec 10.
3. Alghamdi R, Jarrett P. Experiences of student midwives in the care of women with perinatal loss: a qualitative descriptive study. British Journal of Midwifery. 2016;24(10):715–22.