The Hadassah Medical Center has found that meaningful improvements in the mental and physical well-being of its nurses can be achieved through a multifaceted course designed to alleviate their stress and burnout. Addressing the multidimensional nature of stress that nurses experience, the eight-month course (about 2.25 hours each week) involves meditation, relaxation exercises, drawing, journal writing, a listening circle, interactive dance, acupressure and shiatsu.
When the study team compared pre-course scores for job-related tension and stress, as well as general health, to post-course scores, they found that the 97 nurses who participated showed “significant improvement” as regards job-related tension, perceived stress, productivity, general physical and emotional health, upper respiratory infections, and visits to the doctor. The metrics were analyzed against those of 67 nurses who did not take the course.
The findings of the study led the authors to conclude that “providing hospital staff with multiple techniques addressing commonly encountered work stressors impacts positively on health and well-being and significantly reduces stress and burnout in this population.”
In addition, nurses who have taken the Hadassah course report that they use the techniques they learned to help their patients. One nurse recalls: “I was called into Hadassah the night of the Versaille disaster (when a wedding hall in Jerusalem collapsed with great loss of life). A patient was brought to the emergency room after being buried alive, conscious but shocked and unable to breathe on his own. I worked on him using the relaxation techniques I had learned in the course and, in half an hour, his pulse and blood pressure were normal. In three days, he was discharged. I really do feel that his response and overall quick recovery were due to the exercises we practiced together for that hour in the emergency room.”
The study, “Caring for the Caregivers: Results of an Extended, Five-Component Stress-Reduction Intervention for Hospital Staff,” is highlighted in the November 7, 2015 online issue of Behavioral Medicine. Dr. Sarah Sallon, Founder and Director of Hadassah’s Natural Medicine Research Center (NMRC), Deborah Katz-Eisner, Principal Instructor and Coordinator of NMRC’s Mind-Body Program, and Hila Yaffe, Clinical Research Coordinator, along with Tali Bdolah-Abram of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, bring out that nurses are burdened with high responsibility, the need to multi-task, shift work with disrupted sleep, low social support, constrained decision making, and constant exposure to suffering and dying. Many nurses, they add, also suffer from low-back pain since they regularly have to lift patients—all contributing to high stress and burnout.
The study team suggests that the Hadassah program be tested among staff in other highly stressful professions such as the police, military, fire fighters, and teaching, with appropriate modifications to address the specific nature of stress in those professions.