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Using Meditation to Combat Stress and Burnout

Burnout and the importance of wellbeing have become hot topics over the past few years, even though these concepts are not new to healthcare workers and students. With COVID-19, the rise of burnout in healthcare workers has flooded the media, and for some of us, we have seen and felt these effects firsthand. This includes our students who are out in practice on clinicals or internships. Furthermore, with the transition to virtual or hybrid learning models, many students have had to deal with additional COVID-19-induced burdens of social isolation, adaptation to different learning and studying methods, and becoming the primary caretaker at home. The ensuing emotional exhaustion can take a toll on student perceptions of their academic abilities.

There has been an increasing interest in wellbeing practices, including mindfulness meditation, to help cope against these stressors. We conducted a study amongst pharmacy students at Roseman University, South College, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore to assess the effects of daily meditation on student stress, burnout, and mindfulness. In our study, we asked a group of students to use Headspace, a meditation mobile application, for at least ten minutes a day for six weeks. These students were followed through week ten of the study, with continued use of Headspace being optional between weeks six and ten.

The active group was compared to a control group of students, who were asked to abstain from all mindfulness practices, including use of Headspace or similar app, for ten weeks. Stress was assessed with the Perceived Stress Scale, burnout was assessed with the Maslach Burnout Inventory, and mindfulness was assessed with the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale. These validated assessments were done at baseline, 6-weeks, and 10-weeks.

Highlights from the study results included:

  • Stress was significantly reduced at six and ten-weeks in the intervention group
  • Mindfulness significantly increased at six and ten-weeks in the intervention group
  • Burnout and depersonalization were significantly reduced at six-weeks in the intervention group
  • Burnout and depersonalization remained lower than the control group at ten-weeks but did not reach statistical significance
  • Personal achievement significantly increased at six and ten-weeks in the intervention group

 

 

This study highlights the success of implementing daily meditation to support student wellbeing. Having a mobile app where students can dedicate as little as ten minutes a day is a private and flexible solution for students who can use Headspace at work, home, or on breaks between class. Results from our study should be shared with healthcare professional students who are interested in seeking wellbeing resources. Universities and employers can further support wellbeing amongst students by providing complimentary access to Headspace, encouraging increased research in this area, and supporting a culture of wellbeing and resiliency at their institutions.

For more details on this study, we invite you to read our full manuscript here.

If you would like to contribute to the Faculty Development Blog, please contact Tyler Rose at trose@roseman.edu.

 

Author
Angela Chu, PharmD, BCPS
Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice Director-IPE South Jordan
Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Pharmacy