Just Say OM: How Cultivating Mindfulness Can Enhance Your Nursing Practice

It’s no secret that in today’s fast-paced healthcare environment, nurses are continually adjusting and balancing priorities. At the same time, call lights, requests to review test results and caring for patients’ needs compete for their attention. This hectic pace can lead to work-related stress and the risk of burnout.

Now, there is a mounting body of research pointing to the positive impact mindfulness has on psychological well-being. Scientists have shown that mindfulness-based practices, such as meditation, breathing and visualization techniques, walking, yoga and tai chi can reduce stress and improve a nurse’s communication and outcomes with patients, according to a study at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston, published in the American Journal of Nursing.

Here are three great reasons why nurses should cultivate meditation, yoga or other mindfulness practices into their daily routines:

    • Be more focused and connected. Mindfulness is useful in helping nurses manage stress and reclaim opportunities to more fully connect with patients and families, according to the Dana-Farber study.
    • Reduce stress significantly. Nurses can cut their stress, anxiety, depression and burnout, by approximately 40 percent with mindfulness techniques at work, according to researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, in an article published on its website.
    • Boost empathy Meditation helps boosts a nurse’s wellness and empathy for patients, according to a study published in Nurse Education Today.

What is mindfulness?  Mindfulness is more is about being, than doing. It is being totally in the moment, focusing on what is going on inside and immediately outside of your own body. A sense of non-judgement and acceptance during this focused moment is also important, according to an article in NIH News in Health.

Here are three “ABC” tips for bringing mindfulness to the patient bedside, according to YogaNurse:

  1. A for Awareness: Stop and observe what you are experiencing at the moment.
  2. B for Breathing: Take a deep breath and keep bringing your awareness to your breath, which helps anchor you and keep you from becoming overwhelmed.
  3. C for Circulation: A + B = Circulation. Your central nervous system will begin to relax. This helps your focus become clearer, it cleans up brain fog and allows your oxygen to circulate. This helps you be better equipped to be present for yourself and your patient.

Finding time for mindfulness for nurses however, can be a challenge. The fast-paced nature of the work means you place great value on how much you can do and how fast you can do that to provide urgent patient care.

The trick is to start practicing mindfulness throughout the day, even while checking temperatures, waiting for test results and walking in between patient rooms. All you have to do is become more aware—of your breath, of your feet on the ground, and of the people and voices around you.

Stop. Take a breath. Become aware.

The good news is that if nurses start incorporating some of these mindfulness techniques into your daily living, it will help combat stress and ultimately help them be more mindful and attentive to patients too.

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