Improve the Mental Health on Intensive Care Nurses with Mindfulness

Improve the Mental Health on Intensive Care Nurses with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Nurses are particularly vulnerable to stress and burnout, with little time in their schedule to commit to self-care or intensive stress reduction programs” . . . on-the-job mindfulness-based intervention is viable for this nursing population. In addition to reductions in stress and burnout, participants also reported improved job satisfaction and self-compassion.” Mindful USC


Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. This is particularly acute in intensive care. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout. It not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion. Burnout, in fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. Hence, burnout contributes to the shortage of doctors and nurses.


Preventing burnout has to be a priority. Unfortunately, it is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress and prevent burnout. So, it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. Hence, mindfulness may be a means to reduce burnout in medical professionals in high stress areas.


In today’s Research News article “Moderating Effect of Mindfulness on the Relationships Between Perceived Stress and Mental Health Outcomes Among Chinese Intensive Care Nurses.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Lu and colleagues recruited intensive care nurses and had them complete measures of burnout, mindfulness, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and subjective well-being. The measure of subjective well-being is a composite that includes a high level of satisfaction with life, more positive emotions, and fewer negative emotions.


They found that the higher the nurses’ levels of mindfulness the better the nurses’ mental health including lower levels of anxiety, depression, perceived stress, negative emotions and burnout and higher levels of subjective well-being, life satisfaction and positive emotions. They also found that the greater the levels of perceived stress the worse the nurses’ mental health including greater levels of burnout, negative emotions, anxiety, and depression, and lower levels of mindfulness, satisfaction with life, positive emotions, and life satisfaction. In addition, they found that mindfulness moderated the negative effects of perceived stress such that when mindfulness was high, perceived stress had a smaller relationship with emotional exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and negative affect and a larger relationship with positive affect.


In interpreting these results, it needs to be recognized that the study was correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. But previous research has already established that mindfulness produces reductions in burnout, anxiety, depression, perceived stress, and negative emotions and produces increases in life satisfaction, positive emotions, and subjective well-being. So, it is reasonable to conclude that the present findings were due to the causal effects of mindfulness. But the present findings add to this knowledge by showing that mindfulness not only directly improves the psychological state of the nurses but also acts to reduce the negative impact of stress.


These effects of mindfulness are important as burnout in high stress occupations like nursing is all too common. The results suggest that mindfulness training should be routinely administered to intensive care nurses to improve their well-being and mental health and reduce the likelihood that they will experience burnout.


So, improve the mental health on intensive care nurses with mindfulness.


Learning mindfulness also helped the ICU personnel to “become aware of what their individual stress response is” and to “practice flexibility in cultivating alternative ways” of dealing with chronic stress.” – Marianna Klatt


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Lu, F., Xu, Y., Yu, Y., Peng, L., Wu, T., Wang, T., … Li, M. (2019). Moderating Effect of Mindfulness on the Relationships Between Perceived Stress and Mental Health Outcomes Among Chinese Intensive Care Nurses. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 260. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00260



This study aimed to explore the potential moderating effect of mindfulness and its facets on the relationships among perceived stress and mental health outcomes (burnout, depression, anxiety, and subjective well-being) among Chinese intensive care nurses. A total of 500 Chinese intensive care nurses completed self-report measures of mindfulness, burnout syndromes, perceived stress, depression, anxiety, and subjective well-being. Correlation and hierarchical multiple regressions were applied for data analysis. Mindfulness moderated the effects of perceived stress on emotional exhaustion (the core component of burnout syndrome), depression, anxiety, positive affect, and negative affect but not on the other two dimensions of burnout and life satisfaction. Further analyses indicated that the ability to act with awareness was particularly crucial in improving the effects of perceived stress on depression. These results further broaden our understanding of the relationships between perceived stress and burnout, depression, anxiety, and subjective well-being by demonstrating that mindfulness may serve as a protective factor that alleviates or eliminates the negative effects of perceived stress on depression, anxiety, burnout syndrome, and subjective well-being and may instigate further research into targeted mindfulness interventions for Chinese intensive care nurses.


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