Resilience or detachment? Coping strategies among termination of pregnancy health care providers in two South African provinces
There is global recognition that competent and willing health care providers remain the most important determinant of safe abortion or termination of pregnancy services. The psychosocial well-being of providers is critical to the provision of responsive termination of pregnancy services. In light of the dearth of scholarly attention on termination of pregnancy providers’ coping strategies in low- and middle-income countries, this paper explores coping strategies among these providers in the urban Gauteng and the mixed rural-urban North West provinces of South Africa. During 2015, in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 termination of pregnancy providers working at abortion facilities in these provinces. Questions focused on providers’ lived experiences of abortion service provision, the meanings they attached to their work and their reported coping strategies. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to analyse the interviews. Interviewees’ mean age was 45.8 years, all were professional nurses and the majority were female (82%), working for an average of 3.6 years in abortion services. Four overlapping themes emerged in relation to reported coping strategies: silence and concealing emotions; seeking support; detachment or disengagement; and belief systems. Study findings point to the need for effective, sustainable employee wellness programmes, within an overall context of positive practice environments.