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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

High rates of burnout among maternal health staff at a referral hospital in Malawi: A cross-sectional study

Viva Combs Thorsen1*, Andra L Teten Tharp2 and Tarek Meguid3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

2 Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA

3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Bwaila Hospital and Kamuzu Central Hospital, Lilongwe, Malawi

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BMC Nursing 2011, 10:9  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-10-9

Published: 23 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Burnout among maternal healthcare workers in sub-Saharan Africa may have a negative effect on services provided and efforts to mitigate high maternal mortality rates. In Malawi, research on burnout is limited and no empirical research has been conducted specifically among maternal health staff. Therefore, the aims of the study were to examine the prevalence and degree of burnout reported by healthcare workers who provide antenatal, intrapartum, and postnatal services in a district referral hospital in Malawi; and, to explore factors that may influence the level of burnout healthcare workers experience.

Methods

In the current cross-sectional study, levels of burnout among staff working in obstetrics and gynaecology at a referral hospital in Malawi were examined, in addition to individual and job characteristics that may be associated with burnout.

Results

In terms of the three dimensions of burnout, of the 101 participants, nearly three quarters (72%) reported emotional exhaustion, over one third (43%) reported depersonalization while almost three quarters (74%) experienced reduced personal accomplishment.

Conclusions

Based on these findings, burnout appears to be common among participating maternal health staff and they experienced more burnout than their colleagues working in other medical settings and countries. Further research is needed to identify factors specific to Malawi that contribute to burnout in order to inform the development of prevention and treatment within the maternal health setting.