Mindful Nurses are Better Nurses
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness practice helps nurses to be more fully present with their patients and themselves. The ability to pay attention to what is happening “right now,” in this room with this patient, and not be distracted by other demands and concerns, creates space to use your wisdom and knowledge effectively and with care for the dignity of each patient. Being more present to your own experience and habitual responses increases your ability to manage stress and enhances decision-making, well-being, and self-efficacy.” – Sandra Bernstein
In high stress occupations, like nursing, 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.
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 and thereby make them better in their roles as healthcare providers. Mindfulness has 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. Hence, mindfulness may be a means to reduce burnout and improve well-being, dedication, and compassion in nurses.
In today’s Research News article “The mediating role of cognitive and affective empathy in the relationship of mindfulness with engagement in nursing.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6947930/), Pérez-Fuentes and colleagues recruited Spanish nurses and had them complete measures of mindfulness, empathy, including measures of cognitive and affective empathy, and work engagement including measures of vitality, dedication and absorption.
A correlational analysis revealed that the higher the level of mindfulness the higher the level of work engagement including vitality, dedication and absorption and cognitive empathy, and the lower the level of affective empathy. A mediation analysis of these data revealed that mindfulness had direct associations and also indirect associations via cognitive empathy with higher work engagement including vitality, dedication and absorption. That is that mindfulness was directly associated with work engagement and also indirectly associated as a result of mindfulness being associated with higher cognitive empathy that was, in turn, associated with higher work engagement.
These findings are correlational and as such causation cannot be established. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that mindful nurses have greater levels of energy (vigor), feel greater challenge and enthusiasm for their work (dedication), have greater attention to and concentration on their work (absorption), and have a better intellectual understanding of the feelings of others (cognitive empathy). In addition, mindful nurses, because they have higher levels of cognitive empathy, have additionally higher levels of work engagement.
These findings suggest that mindfulness is an important contributor to the work engagement, vigor, and absorption of nurses. This suggests that mindful nurses are better nurses. Future research should attempt to determine causation by training the nurses in mindfulness and observing whether work engagement increases and burnout decreases as a result of the training.
So, mindful nurses are better nurses.
“Nursing is a high-stress profession that may be taking a toll on our nurses. Mindfulness-based programs can help nurses develop skills to manage clinical stress and improve their health; increase overall attention, empathy, and presence with patients and families; and experience work satisfaction, serenity, decreased incidental overtime, and reduced job burnout.” – Sue Penque
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Pérez-Fuentes, M., Gázquez Linares, J. J., Molero Jurado, M., Simón Márquez, M., & Martos Martínez, Á. (2020). The mediating role of cognitive and affective empathy in the relationship of mindfulness with engagement in nursing. BMC public health, 20(1), 16. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-8129-7
The work of health professionals is characterized by a high demand for psychological and emotional resources and high levels of stress. Therefore, the promotion of commitment and job well-being through strategies such as increased mindfulness, is important among nursing workers. Although mindfulness has shown positive effects in the health field, few studies have explored the mechanisms and processes underlying these results. We investigated the mediating role of empathy (cognitive/affective) in the effect of mindfulness on the dimensions of engagement in nursing professionals.
Sample was comprised of 1268 Spanish nurses between 22 and 62 years old, that completed the Utrecht Labor Engagement Scale and the adapted versions of Mindful Attention Awareness Scale and Basic Empathy Scale. The relationship between variables to be included in the regression analyses, bivariate correlations were carried out, and the descriptive statistics of these variables were also found. To estimate the mediation model was used, in this case for multiple mediation effects.
Mindfulness is found to affect the Vigor and Dedication factors of engagement through cognitive empathy. While for the Absorption factor, the affective component of empathy also exerts a mediating role, although weaker than cognitive empathy. Cognitive empathy, as an individual factor, was shown to have a mediating effect between mindfulness and the factors of engagement in healthcare workers.
The level of mindfulness influences engagement of nursing professionals positively, and this result is mediated mainly by cognitive empathy. Both mindfulness and empathy are modifiable individual factors, so their intervention by designing and implementing specific programs, can increase the commitment and wellbeing of professionals generating benefits to workers and to their patients.