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When babies don’t survive

Parents whose babies are dying could be better supported and the core task for nurses during such a time is engagement with and empowerment of parents.

These are among the key points Dr Andrew Watkins, from Mercy Hospital in Melbourne, raised during the Westmead International Update of Advances in Perinatal Care, held in June.

During the presentation, Watkins shared quotes from parents who were experiencing the death of a baby, including some describing the interactions they had with doctors or nurses.

One involved a father explaining his anger that a nurse treated the baby as though he was still alive when he wasn’t. Another involved a positive reaction to seeing the visible emotion of a nurse as validating the personhood of the baby.

Watkins told Nursing Review: “Roughly the same behaviour can elicit very different responses, perhaps because of expectations of the appropriate way to handle a baby after death from different cultures and religions, or perhaps because of where a particular parent is in their grieving and in reaching an accommodation for what's going on.

“It is really very hard.”

In an interview with health editor Dallas Bastian, Watkins discusses the difficulty nurses face when balancing empathy, vulnerability and professionalism, goals for the parent that can be set out early and why self-care and support is important.

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