Stress and burnout are pervasive among health care professionals and both have been associated with health problems and poorer quality of patient care. Among health care professionals, hospitalists are especially prone to stress and burnout. The practice of mindfulness, which involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, can provide a more skillful response to stress by cultivating skills in awareness and attention. While mindfulness has been shown to promote physical and mental wellbeing among health care professionals, it has not yet been studied among hospitalists to our knowledge.
The purpose of this pilot study was to investigate the effect of guided mindfulness practice on mindfulness and perceived stress among hospitalists.
All hospitalists attended a grand rounds presentation on mindfulness by a physician who is a certified instructor in mindfulness. Afterward, hospitalists voluntarily signed up for a weekly mindfulness session over a five-week period. Sessions were led by a trained mindfulness instructor and were open to hospital staff and patients. Hospitalists who attended any of the sessions completed two validated scales prior to and after the intervention: the Mindfulness Attention and Awareness Scale (MAAS) and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), respectively. A supplement was added to the MAAS to inquire about mindfulness during hospitalist-specific tasks. Higher scores on the MAAS reflect greater levels of dispositional mindfulness. Higher scores on the PSS reflect greater levels of perceived stress, and the mean PSS for adults age 30 to 44 is 13 ± 6. A paired-samples t-test was conducted to evaluate the impact of the mindfulness initiative on hospitalists’ MAAS and PSS scores.
Of the 7 study participants, the mean age was 33.7 ± 3.5 years and 42.9% were female. The average number of mindfulness sessions attended by participants was 2.1 ± 1.5. There was a statistically significant increase in mean MAAS scores from pre-intervention (M=3.77, SD=0.78) to post-intervention (M=4.29, SD=0.48, t(6)=-3.01, p=.02). There was a statistically significant decrease in mean PSS scores from pre-intervention (M=18.57, SD=3.87) to post-intervention (M=13.43, SD=5.88, t(6)=2.83, p=.03), and the post-intervention mean PSS score was closer in value to the mean PSS for adults age 30 to 44.
Hospitalists in this study had higher levels of perceived stress than the general population of adults age 30 to 44. Among hospitalists who attended an average of two mindfulness sessions over five weeks, there was a statistically significant increase in mindfulness and decrease in perceived stress. These results suggest the potential improvement in well-being among hospitalists from mindfulness practice. A limitation of this study was the small number of participants. Future studies will focus on customizing the sessions for hospitalists to improve their participation in this self-care initiative.