Teaching healthcare workers about the mind-body connection may reduce stress and improve job satisfaction, Courage Center has found. Patients and workers' families also benefit when employees use simple techniques on the job to stay present to themselves and to patients.
Workplace stress can interfere with patient care and spill over into the lives of healthcare workers. Courage Center (www.couragecenter.org), a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities, has been integrating the principles of mind-body connectedness to help its healthcare professionals reduce stress.
The results have benefited workers, clients, and workers' families and friends, according to statistical research performed by Courage Center to gauge staff satisfaction.
Because the rehabilitation work they engage in can be so intense, the patient care staff at Courage Center was experiencing a high degree of job stress before participating in the Mind Body Integration Project, according to Nancy Flinn, director of Outcomes and Research at the rehab center.
Improved employee satisfaction
At the outset of the project two years ago, 60 percent of the 44 workers surveyed were considering leaving the agency and 25 percent were pondering leaving their professions. After a year of regular sessions that helped them tune in to subtle sensations in their bodies throughout the workday, those numbers dropped to 27 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
The project, which is jointly being administered by the Minnetonka nonprofit Mind Body Solutions (www.mindbodysolutions.org) and Courage Center staff, is ongoing. Mind Body Solutions was founded in 2002 by internationally recognized, paralyzed yoga teacher and speaker, Matthew Sanford. Participating workers at Courage Center have included physical and occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, nurses and nursing assistants.
Organizers were very conscious of keeping it simple rather than giving staff more tasks, according to Amy Samson-Burke, a physical therapist at Courage Center who also teaches yoga through Mind Body Solutions.
For example, staff members were asked to periodically become aware of the sensations in their feet, particularly before beginning what they anticipated would be a difficult session. "Paying attention to your feet has a remarkable calming effect before you go into a difficult interaction," Samson-Burke says.
Caring for self, others
The training has helped physical therapist Jenny Tuccitto to care for herself throughout the day and to focus more on client wellness, too.
"The mind-body approach has taught me to be truly present to my clients, to give them 100 percent of my time and to be able to leave that session and leave that behind and move on to something different, which is hard in therapy," Tuccitto says.
"It's being able to set a boundary so that you're still able to interact with the client on a personal and professional level but then being able to come out of that interaction without feeling like you've been drained," adds Samson-Burke, who hopes to bring the program to other healthcare workplaces.
"We would love to continue taking this into all aspects of healthcare," she says. "We want to work with all populations."