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Media Release: Health workers to get new training to better support bereaved parents

November 4, 2020


A new online learning module designed to help healthcare professionals in Australia and New Zealand provide supportive and sensitive care to families who experience a stillbirth launched today.

In partnership with the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ), the Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth (Stillbirth CRE) has released IMPROVE ‘IMproving Perinatal Mortality Review and Outcomes Via Education’ — a new eLearning course for healthcare professionals based on the latest Clinical Guideline for Care Around Stillbirth and Neonatal Death.

Six babies a day are stillborn in Australia. For many, the loss occurs unexpectedly toward the end of a pregnancy, with nearly 40 per cent of the stillbirths that occur when a mother has carried their baby full term remaining unexplained.

In 2018, the Senate Select Committee Inquiry into Stillbirth Research and Education heard compelling evidence from bereaved parents about how the care they received from clinicians following their baby’s death either helped or compounded their suffering.

The IMPROVE course has a chapter dedicated to helping healthcare professionals provide respectful and supportive perinatal bereavement care through good communication, shared decision making, acknowledgement, and the provision of clear and consistent information.

Another chapter is dedicated to helping healthcare professionals communicate sensitively with parents about perinatal autopsies. In Australia, autopsy rates for stillbirth remain low, at around 36 per cent.

Stillbirth CRE Director Professor Vicki Flenady encouraged everyone working in maternity health to complete the IMPROVE eLearning Module.

“The IMPROVE program has been developed to give all clinicians the knowledge and skills they need to provide the best possible care for bereaved parents and families,” Professor Flenady said.

The IMPROVE eLearning resource will also help prevent perinatal deaths by improving investigations, classification and identification of contributing factors in stillbirths, data collection, and understanding of risk factors.

Sydney Neonatologist and Stillbirth CRE Investigator, Professor Adrienne Gordon said the IMPROVE eLearning tool was important, because “high quality data is the cornerstone of stillbirth prevention.”

“While it is often hard for parents to contemplate an autopsy for their baby, there is increasing evidence that if a stillborn baby has an autopsy, then this may help parents in their grieving process, to understand what went wrong, and to help in planning if there is a subsequent pregnancy,” Professor Gordon said.

The IMPROVE resource has been endorsed by organisations including, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, The Australian and New Zealand NeoNatal Network, The Australian College of Midwives,

Women’s Healthcare Australasia, the Stillbirth Foundation Australia, SANDS and Red Nose.

Australia’s annual rate of stillbirth reduction is 1.4 per cent, more than six times slower than the best performing country. More than 200 stillbirths occurring after 28 weeks’ gestation could be prevented every year if Australian and New Zealand matched that of the best performing countries.

The IMPROVE eLearning Module can be found at: https://learn.stillbirthcre.org.au/improve

ENDS

Margaret de Silva
Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth
+61 7 3163 6326 | stillbirthcre@mater.uq.edu.au


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