Purpose: To evaluate the effectiveness of virtual delivery of mindfulness-based stress reduction on stress, anxiety, burnout, and mindfulness.
Background/significance: Stress and burnout are prevalent in health care, which can negatively impact clinician well-being and the quality of the health care provided. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been shown to decrease stress and burnout. This waitlist control study evaluates the effectiveness of the virtual delivery of MBSR content. The objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a virtually presented, 8-week MBSR program in decreasing perceived stress, anxiety, and burnout while increasing mindfulness. Stress and burnout in clinicians are prevalent, which negatively impacts clinician well-being, interpersonal relationships, team effectiveness, retention, and patient outcomes.1 Clinicians with higher stress and burnout have rated themselves lower in safety related to impaired attention, memory, and cognitive function.2 Researchers have demonstrated that increasing mindfulness and resilience mitigates stress and burnout, limits the negative sequelae, and improves patient outcomes.3,4 The effectiveness of virtual training for MBSR has not been thoroughly studied.
Design/methods: The study employs a pre-/post-, waitlist control group methodology without randomization. Participants were recruited from an 8-hospital health system in the Southeastern United States to participate in an 8-week MBSR course facilitated by instructors trained at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness in Medicine. The intervention cohort attended training in the fall of 2020, and the control group attended in the winter of 2021. The researched hoped to enroll 25 participants each cohort, for an anticipated sample size of 50. A $25 gift card incentive was available to participants that complete the study. Outcomes measured included mindfulness, stress, anxiety, and burnout pre-, during, and post-training.
Results: The results included measures of the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and General Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7). The four listed scales were measured at the beginning of the first MBSR class, and after the final (eighth) class. The PSS was also measured during the class on the fifth week of the 8-week course. Information was collected from both the intervention and control cohorts and compare to determine the effectiveness of the virtual training.
Conclusion/practical implications: The study provides information regarding the efficacy of virtual MBSR courses. This information is of practical importance in this era of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic for two reasons: 1) health care provider stress is even higher as a result of the pandemic and the critical nature of the disease for hospitalized patients and 2) the need to social distance to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus may prohibit in-person classes. The need to care for our caregivers is well-documented and mindfulness-based interventions can serve as practical tools to prevent burnout, excess stress, and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder in clinicians.