Nurses, Other Healthcare Workers Experience Reduced Stress and Burnout Through Mindfulness Program

By Carol Davis

An 8-week mindfulness program created by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and The Ohio State University College of Medicine significantly reduced burnout and perceived stress for nurses and other healthcare staff, while increasing resilience and work engagement at the large healthcare system, a new study found.

Of the 267 study participants, nearly 70 were registered and advanced practice nurses, along with resident physicians, resident chaplains, attending physicians, medical center faculty, and hospital administrative/managerial clinical staff at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

Participants demonstrated a significant 27% reduction in burnout after completing the Mindfulness in Motion program, and resilience significantly increased while perceived stress decreased, said Maryanna Klatt, PhD, lead researcher and a professor in the department of family and community medicine at Ohio State.

“Our study shows that when an organization invests preventively in a program like Mindfulness in Motion for any faculty and staff, it makes a real difference when a crisis like an unexpected pandemic happens,” Klatt said.

Because burnout affects physical, social, and mental well-being, the effects of reducing it for frontline healthcare providers can impact patient care. Therefore, reducing burnout and perceived stress, while increasing resilience for healthcare providers, is important.

A mindfulness program has been in place at Wexner Medical Center for decades, said Beth Steinberg, associate chief nursing officer, critical care and emergency services at Wexner, who implemented the program in surgical intensive care and neonatal ICU and who was a researcher involved in the study.

But COVID-19 required the program to adjust to the challenging circumstances, Steinberg said.

“We had to figure out very quickly how to get to people who couldn’t get off the unit anymore, who couldn’t take an hour to do this mindfulness program once a week,” Steinberg said, “so Maryanna developed five-minute mindfulness bits that people could listen to on their phones, they could listen to as they came into work, and they could listen to on a break.”

Many nurse managers at the organization also have implemented these videos during morning or shift-change huddles, she said.

Since then, Klatt also has developed two-minute audio messages.

Implementing a mindfulness program is imperative to healthcare staff’s mental health, Steinberg said.

“There are a number of online programs that are out there now … that will allow folks the ability to just step outside themselves for a minute, to be able to think, and to understand what’s happening,” she said.

“I think nurse leaders have to understand that we can’t afford not to give our providers, our nurses, [and] our caregivers back some time to take care of themselves,” Steinberg said. “The time it takes to give people back a little bit of their mental health is going to be well worth it.”

While there is much research on individual changes that mindfulness programming can achieve, the Ohio research differs in that the study focused on an organizationally sponsored program.

Organizational buy-in likely helps account for the program’s success, Klatt said.

“When someone feels that their employer is invested in them and cares about them, good things happen,” she said. “Mindfulness is important on both the organizational and the individual level.”

The next step for this research will be a pilot study with the Ohio Hospital Association in 2021 to train other hospitals to use Mindfulness in Motion.

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.