Sources of stress and coping mechanisms: Experiences of maternal health care providers in Western Kenya

Monica Getahun, Edwina N Oboke, Beryl A Ogolla, Joyceline Kinyua, Linnet Ongeri, Mona Sterling, Iscar Oluoch, Audrey Lyndon, Patience A Afulani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dynamic and complex nature of care provision predisposes healthcare workers to stress, including physical, emotional, or psychological fatigue due to individual, interpersonal, or organizational factors. We conducted a convergent mixed-methods study with maternity providers to understand their sources of stress and coping mechanisms they adopt. Data were collected in Migori County in western Kenya utilizing quantitative surveys with n = 101 maternity providers and in-depth interviews with a subset of n = 31 providers. We conducted descriptive analyses for the quantitative data. For qualitative data, we conducted thematic analysis, where codes were deductively developed from interview guides, iteratively refined based on emergent data, and applied by a team of five researchers using Dedoose software. Code queries were then analysed to identify themes and organized using the socioecological (SE) framework to present findings at the individual, interpersonal, and organizational levels. Providers reported stress due to high workloads (61%); lack of supplies (37%), poor salary (32%), attitudes of colleagues and superiors (25%), attitudes of patients (21%), and adverse outcomes (16%). Themes from the qualitative analysis mirrored the quantitative analysis with more detailed information on the factors contributing to each and how these sources of stress affect providers and patient outcomes. Coping mechanisms adopted by providers are captured under three themes: addressing stress by oneself, reaching out to others, and seeking help from a higher power. Findings underscore the need to address organizational, interpersonal, and individual level stressors. Strategies are needed to support staff retention, provide adequate resources and incentives for providers, and ultimately improve patient outcomes. Interventions should support and leverage the positive coping mechanisms identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0001341
Pages (from-to)e0001341
JournalPLOS global public health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Sources of stress and coping mechanisms: Experiences of maternal health care providers in Western Kenya'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this