Mothers' perceptions of primary health-care providers: thematic analysis of responses to open-ended survey questions

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General practitioners and maternal, child and family health nurses have a central role in postpartum primary health care for women and their infants. Positive client-provider relationships are particularly important for women experiencing mental health problems or unsettled infant behaviour. However, little is known about their experiences of postnatal primary health care. The study aimed to describe views of postnatal primary health care among women completing a residential early parenting programme and to identify potential strategies to enhance provider-patient interactions. Participants (n = 138) were women admitted with their infants to a private or a public early parenting service in Melbourne, Australia. Women completed a detailed self-report survey, including open-ended questions about experiences of primary health-care services, and a structured psychiatric interview to diagnose anxiety and depression. Survey responses were analysed thematically. Womens? experiences of primary health care were influenced by their perceptions of provider competence and the quality of interactions. While similar positive characteristics of doctor and nurse care were valued, medical and nursing practices were judged in different ways. Women described GPs who listened, understood and were thorough as providing good care, and maternal, child and family health nurses were valued for providing support, advice and encouragement. Threats to therapeutic relationships with doctors included feeling rushed during consultations, believing that GPs were not mental health-care providers and the clinician not being `good? with the infant; with nurses, problems included feeling judged or given advice that was inconsistent or lacked an evidence-base. Postpartum primary health care will be improved by unhurried consultations, empathic recognition, encouragement, evidence-informed guidance and absence of criticism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58 - 65
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Journal of Primary Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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