‘By “clients” I mean women who are pregnant and give birth,’ clarifies Van Stenus. ‘The level of their satisfaction was the main focus of my doctoral thesis.’ To get the full picture of experiences with obstetric and neonatal care (care just before and after childbirth), the researcher also included healthcare professionals in her work.
Van Stenus’ research, which she conducted at the UT’s Department of Public Administration, was originally motivated by the relatively high numbers of perinatal deaths in the Netherlands. ‘The numbers have declined a lot since then,’ assures the PhD candidate. ‘My work was a part of a national project aiming to optimize the care for mothers and their children.’
The researcher was especially interested in how women experience transfers between health professionals. ‘My findings show that women are generally very satisfied with the care, but their level of satisfaction is lower if they were transferred from one healthcare provider to another. That might be because they had a good personal connection with the first professional or because transfers usually occur due to complications - which can naturally result in a more negative experience.’
Room for improvement
Despite the overall ‘positive findings’, Cherelle van Stenus believes that there is room for improvement if it comes to obstetric and neonatal care in the Netherlands. ‘It’s important for the healthcare professionals to clearly explain what could possibly happen during and after childbirth. Not to scare the women, but to prepare them. They should also realize that the woman’s previous experiences strongly influence her opinion and state of mind, so they should ask about those.’
‘Moreover, I believe the healthcare providers should be given repeated multidisciplinary trainings where they meet each other. They need to practice how to transfer patients, because in emergency situations you need to act quickly,’ continues the PhD researcher. ‘Lastly, it would be great if there was one digital system available to all the healthcare professionals in perinatal care. Now they all have their own separate system and don’t have access to the information from the others, so the patient needs to repeat everything.’
'It shows how important it is to listen to clients'
The research was initiated in an effort to improve the care for expecting mothers and their babies. Will its findings be applied in the medical practice? ‘My research didn’t lead to any specific policy used in practice,’ answers Van Stenus. ‘But I hope it shows how important it is to listen to clients, not just look at quantitative data. That is the way to improve the care.’