Improve the Psychological Health of Health Care Professionals with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“The front lines for health care providers may feel overwhelming. . . turning to mindfulness practice can help us settle, help us get out of all that thinking for a moment. We can try to settle down and maybe give ourselves a little rest or see a situation with a little different clarity. “ – Mindful
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. 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 the negative psychological consequences of stress in healthcare professionals has to be a priority. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve well-being. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnout, increasing resilience, and improving sleep. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness training program that was developed to help deal with stress. MBSR consists of discussion, meditation, yoga and body scan practices. The evidence has been accumulating regarding MBSR’s effectiveness for the treatment of healthcare professionals, so it makes sense to summarize what has been learned.
In today’s Research News article “The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on the Psychological Functioning of Healthcare Professionals: a Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7511255/ ) Kriakous and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the benefits of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for the psychological health of healthcare workers. They identified 30 published research studies.
They report that the published research studies found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) significantly reduced healthcare workers’ levels of perceived stress, anxiety, and depression and increased mindfulness and self-compassion. Mindfulness practices have been previously reported to decrease perceived stress, anxiety, and depression and increase self-compassion in a wide variety of healthy and ill individuals. The present research summarizes these benefits for stressed healthcare professionals. These benefits of mindfulness training are important for reducing burnout, improving the psychological health of healthcare workers, and maintaining the workforce, and thereby improving the levels of care delivered to patients.
So, improve the psychological health of health care professionals with mindfulness.
“health care workforce. There is increasing evidence that learning to practice mindfulness can result in decreased burnout and improved well-being. Mindfulness is a useful way of cultivating self-kindness and compassion, including by bringing increased awareness to and acceptance of those things that are beyond our control.” – Kate Fitzpatrick
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Kriakous, S. A., Elliott, K. A., Lamers, C., & Owen, R. (2020). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on the Psychological Functioning of Healthcare Professionals: a Systematic Review. Mindfulness, 1–28. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01500-9
Burnout and occupational stress are frequently experienced by healthcare professionals (HCPs). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been found to improve the psychological health outcomes of HCPs. To date, systematic reviews and meta-analyses have primarily focused upon empirical investigations into the reduction of stress amongst HCPs using MBSR and are limited to empirical studies published before December 2019. This systematic review aimed to update the current evidence base and broaden our understanding of the effectiveness of MBSR on improving the psychological functioning of HCPs.
Three electronic databases (Medline, Psych Info and Web of Science) were searched without time frame restrictions. Quantitative studies included randomised controlled trials, clinical controlled trials, pre-post designs and studies with up to a 12-month follow-up period. All studies included in the review employed a MBSR programme, standardised measures of psychological functioning and qualified HCPs as participants.
Using PRISMA guidelines thirty studies were included in the review. The reviewed literature suggested that MBSR was effective in reducing HCPs experiences of anxiety, depression and stress. MBSR was also found to be effective in increasing HCP levels of mindfulness and self-compassion. However, MBSR did not appear as effective in reducing burnout or improving resilience amongst HCPs. Abbreviated MBSR programmes were found to be as effective as the traditional 8-week MBSR programmes.
MBSR is an effective intervention which can help improve the psychological functioning of HCPs. Recommendations include improving the overall quality of the studies by employing more robust controlled designs with randomisation, increased sample sizes with heterogeneous samples, and making active comparisons between interventions used.