Mindfulness Training Improves the Psychological Health of Health Care Professionals
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Levels of stress and burnout in the healthcare profession have been exacerbated in recent decades by significant changes in how health care is delivered and administered. Extensive research has shown that mindfulness training . . . can have significant positive impacts on participants’ job satisfaction; their relationships with patients, co-workers and administration; and their focus and creativity at work.” – WPHP
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. 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.
Improving the psychological health of health care professionals has to be a priority. 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 burnout, increasing resilience, and improving sleep. Hence, mindfulness may be a means to improve the psychological health of medical professionals.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based IARA Model® Proves Effective to Reduce Stress and Anxiety in Health Care Professionals. A Six-Month Follow-Up Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6888054/), Barattucci and colleagues recruited doctors, nurses, and healthcare assistants and randomly assigned them to either a no-treatment control condition or to receive self-awareness/mindfulness training. The training occurred in 4 8-hour group sessions and emphasized mindfulness, emotion regulation, counseling techniques and skills to deal with stress. They were measured before and 6 months after training for anxiety, perceived stress, and emotion regulation.
They found that 6 months after training the self-awareness/mindfulness training group had significant reductions in perceived stress and anxiety and significant improvements in emotion regulation while the control group did not. They also found that the higher the levels of emotion regulation the lower the levels of anxiety and perceived stress.
The intervention of self-awareness/mindfulness training involves a complex set of trainings and it cannot be determined which component or combination of components are responsible for the effects. But it has been shown in previous research showing that mindfulness training produces lasting improvements in emotion regulation, reductions in anxiety and perceived stress, and improvements in the psychological health of healthcare workers. Hence, it can be concluded that at least the mindfulness training component of the self-awareness/mindfulness training is effective. It was not established but it is assumed that these psychological improvements will lead to greater resilience and decrease burnout in healthcare workers.
So, mindfulness training improves the psychological health of health care professionals.
“Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, rumination, and stress, and to improve self-compassion and positive mood states in health care professionals. Second, the practice of mindfulness improves qualities that are critical to effective treatment, such as attention, empathy, emotion regulation, and affect tolerance.” – Shauna Shapiro
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Barattucci, M., Padovan, A. M., Vitale, E., Rapisarda, V., Ramaci, T., & De Giorgio, A. (2019). Mindfulness-Based IARA Model® Proves Effective to Reduce Stress and Anxiety in Health Care Professionals. A Six-Month Follow-Up Study. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(22), 4421. doi:10.3390/ijerph16224421
Changes in the health care environment, together with specific work-related stressors and the consequences on workers’ health and performance, have led to the implementation of prevention strategies. Among the different approaches, those which are mindfulness-based have been institutionally recommended with an indication provided as to their effectiveness in the management of stress. The aim of the present study was to analyze the efficacy of the mindfulness-based IARA Model® (an Italian acronym translatable into meeting, compliance, responsibility, autonomy) in order to ameliorate perceived stress, anxiety and enhance emotional regulation among health care professionals (HCPs; i.e., doctors, nurses, and healthcare assistants). Four hundred and ninety-seven HCPs, 215 (57.2%) of which were women, were randomly assigned to a mindfulness-based training or control group and agreed to complete questionnaires on emotion regulation difficulties (DERS), anxiety, and perceived stress. Results showed that HCPs who attended the IARA training, compared to the control group, had better emotional regulation, anxiety and stress indices after 6 months from the end of the intervention. Furthermore, the results confirmed the positive relationship between emotional regulation, perceived stress and anxiety. The present study contributes to literature by extending the effectiveness of IARA in improving emotional regulation and well-being in non-clinical samples. Moreover, the study provides support for the idea that some specific emotional regulation processes can be implicated in perceived stress and anxiety. From the application point of view, companies should invest more in stress management intervention, monitoring and training, in order to develop worker skills, emotional self-awareness, and relational resources.