MINDFULNESS PROGRAMS CAN CURB STRESS AND BURNOUTCategory:
Parkinson’s Resource Organization has started a Mindfulness Focused Group on the third Tuesday of each month, being facilitated by Roger Moore of Palm Desert Hypnosis. The next meeting is March 16, 2021 at 1:30pm PST.
Researchers began collecting data for the recent study years before the COVID-19 pandemic began, tracking outcomes of healthcare workers who participated in Klatt’s Mindfulness in Motion program between 2017 and 2019.
The paper also tracked use of stress-reducing, five-to-six minute mindfulness videos, also developed by Klatt, and made available online through OSU at the start of the pandemic. The publicly-available videos were viewed 10,896 times in the first 90 days they were available. “We’re at over 20,000 views now,” Klatt says.
Study volunteers who took the mindfulness classes also filled out questionnaires before and after the eight-week program that measured burnout, stress, resilience, and engagement at work.
After completing the program, 27% fewer participants met criteria for burnout, which is significant because job burnout is a widespread risk for healthcare workers in high-stress environments. Levels of perceived stress dropped. Scores for resilience and work engagement increased substantially, with the participants reporting more vigor, absorption, and dedication to their work.
The study also tracked views of 30-minute video “mindfulness booster sessions,” which were made available to all healthcare practitioners at the medical center during the pandemic. The booster videos got 1,720 views in the first 90 days, while the five to six-minute mindfulness videos Klatt developed in the early days of the pandemic got 8,471 views in 60 days. “These were available to anyone, not just hospital employees, so we don’t know who was watching,” Klatt says. “But clearly people were interested.”
Why Mindfulness Helps: ‘I Notice the Good Moments That Sustain Me’
Interventions that can help with first responder stress and exhaustion are important during a health emergency. Healthcare practitioners are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety and exhaustion during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a national survey of emergency medical technicians, nurses, doctors, therapists and other healthcare workers by Mental Health America, 76 percent reported burnout, 75 percent said they were overwhelmed, and more than half reported sleep problems. One in 4 U.K. hospital workers, including doctors and nurses, had signs of post-traumatic stress disorder in a study published December 29, 2020, in BJPsych Open.
“When you’re dealing with extreme illness all the time, it’s hard to see the positives,” Black says of her experience treating patients with COVID-19. “The course helped me stay open to what’s going on around me. I notice the beautiful interactions between staff members and families, the ways coworkers come together as a team, and the good moments that sustain me.”
Klatt says her group is currently working on two-minute videos that nurses and other healthcare practitioners can use during very short breaks such as between patients. These new videos are the result of a request for such tools from a critical-care nursing supervisor, Klatt says. “The short videos are like using a rescue inhaler during an asthma attack to help you get through high stress and anxiety. They will include a simple stretch or relaxation move to reduce tension, a breathing exercise, and a reminder to check in with yourself.”
John Shepard, RN, a critical care nurse and mindfulness program manager for the Indiana University Health System, says he sees even brief mindfulness moments reduce stress at the 16-hospital system where he works in Indiana.
Shepard was not involved with Klatt’s work. But he’s found similar results from a five-week course he teaches called Aware or through the “pop-up” mindfulness sessions he leads for hospital staffers.
“We’ll do a few yoga stretches, a mindfulness exercise with breathing, and we often end with laughter yoga,” he says. “When a group of people simulate deep belly laughs—just making the sounds and using their breath—pretty soon people find themselves smiling and laughing for real.”
Due to the pandemic, nurses and other healthcare workers are strained and stressed, Shepard says. “We care for everyone who comes through the door, whether they wore a mask and practiced social-distancing or not, whether they’re in favor of the new COVID-19 vaccines or not. We have to rise above our personal feelings. It can take a toll.”
What Makes a Mindfulness Intervention Successful at Scale: Connection and Investment
In Klatt’s classes and Shepard’s pop-up sessions, group support plays a quietly important role.
Klatt, who leads the virtual Mindfulness in Motion classes, says sessions begin with participants asking one another questions and sharing responses. “It’s good to know you’re not in this alone. To see that other people have different responses to situations is so valuable. And we hear new ideas about resilience and mindfulness every week from participants.”
Having time with colleagues to acknowledge emotions and vulnerability is also important, Shepard says. “It’s a place where you don’t have to be tough,” he says.
Klatt and Shepard also note that their programs are successful because the institutions where they work support them. The investment of money and staff to develop programs is important; so is giving staff permission to work on mindfulness while they’re at work, right on the frontlines of medicine.
“People take Mindfulness in Motion during the workday,” Klatt says. “They have the support to leave their job for an hour a week, turn off their cell phones, and focus on this. That makes a big difference for them in the moment — with long-term benefits for their own health and for the care of patients”.
This article was published in Patch, February 17, 2021.