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Effects of a Technology-Assisted Meditation Program on Healthcare Providers’ Interoceptive Awareness, Compassion Fatigue, and Burnout

Heeter, Carrie PhD; Lehto, Rebecca PhD, RN; Allbritton, Marcel PhD; Day, Tom MA; Wiseman, Michelle MPA, RN

Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing: August 2017 - Volume 19 - Issue 4 - p 314–322
doi: 10.1097/NJH.0000000000000349
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Research suggests that meditation can relieve stress, cultivate self-regulation skills, improve ability to focus, and modify risk for compassion fatigue (CF) and burnout in healthcare providers. However, studied interventions are time-consuming and combining disparate approaches, resulting in unclear mechanisms of effect. This pilot study examined a novel 6-week technology-assisted meditation program, coherently grounded in the system of yoga therapy that required minimal time. Five 10- to 12-minute meditations were offered via smartphone apps supported by biweekly e-mails. Hospice and palliative professionals at a Midwestern US healthcare network participated in the program (n = 36). Each meditation integrated attention, synchronized breath, gentle movements and a meditation focus. Weekly e-mails introduced a new meditation and reminded participants how and why to practice. The participants used the meditations a mean of 17.18(SD, 8.69) times. Paired t tests found significant presurvey to postsurvey improvements for CF/burnout (P < .05) and interoceptive awareness (P < .001). Participation significantly heightened perceived ability and propensity to direct attention to bodily sensations, increased awareness of physical sensations’ connections to emotions, and increased active body listening. The technology-assisted yoga therapy meditation program successfully motivated providers to meditate. The program required minimal time yet seemed to reduce CF/burnout and improve emotional awareness and self-regulation by heightening attention to present-moment bodily sensations.

Carrie Heeter, PhD, is professor, Department of Media and Information, Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Rebecca Lehto, PhD, RN, is associate professor, College of Nursing, Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Marcel Allbritton, PhD, is clinical yoga therapist, Core Resonance Works, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Tom Day, MA, is doctoral student, Department of Media and Information, Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Michelle Wiseman, MPA, RN, is director, Hospice and Palliative Care, Sparrow Health Network, Lansing, Michigan.

Address correspondence to Carrie Heeter, PhD, Department of Media and Information, Michigan State University, Rm 404, Communication Arts and Sciences Bldg, 404 Wilson Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824-1212 (heeter@msu.edu).

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

This research was partially funded by a grant from the Michigan State University/Sparrow Health System Center for Innovation and Research. The meditation apps were provided by Mindtoon Lab.

The meditation apps and e-mail messages used in the study were designed by M.A. and C.H. C.H.’s company, Mindtoon Lab, produced and owns the copyright to the meditation apps, which are available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

© 2017 by The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.