Stress can be a significant challenge for hospice staff. Recent research found that more than a quarter of hospice caregivers struggled with emotional exhaustion, while 30 percent reported problems with depersonalization.1 It makes sense: The nature of hospice care requires staff to strike a balance between their personal and professional lives, but the effort involved often leaves them feeling disconnected and worn out, leading to hospice burnout.
Mindfulness offers a way to bridge the gap and help clinicians reconnect.
What is Mindfulness?
The mindfulness approach to stress management has seen significant growth over the past few years. Also called mindfulness meditation, the goal of this stress-reduction technique is to focus on moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. It also involves acceptance — the idea that there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to feel or think. Instead, mindfulness techniques encourage the experience of thoughts or feelings without judgment.2
Why Does Mindfulness Matter for Hospice?
Mindfulness offers a way for hospice staff and clinicians to slow down and reconnect with the world around them — something they rarely have time for during their workday. As mentioned in a 2021 evaluation of mindfulness research, “mindfulness training leads to a better mood perception, lower stress perception, and responding to stimuli more effectively.”3
In practice, the evaluation notes that the approach can help reduce stress, depression, and feelings of hospice burnout while also increasing feelings of well-being and empathy. By taking the time to slow down and connect with the world around them, hospice staff may be better prepared to face the challenges that come with helping patients and families navigate the end-of-life journey.
How Can Hospices Effectively Implement Stress Management Solutions?
Given the sustained nature of stress in hospice operations, it’s not enough for teams to simply recognize the beneficial role of mindfulness and mediation for hospice staff. Implementing this practice may require a plan. Here’s why: As noted above, research shows that mindfulness can positively impact hospice operations by improving moods and reducing overall stress. But the study also found limitations to these outcomes, most notably because professionals stopped practicing mindfulness over the long term.
This means that for hospices to effectively implement mindfulness-based stress management solutions, they need a solid framework. This starts with setting aside designated time for staff to practice mindfulness each day, along with identifying a specific area for mindfulness practices. The Mayo Clinic points out that two common mindfulness practices are sitting meditation, which focuses on experiencing and accepting sensations in a comfortable sitting position for 10 to 20 minutes; and body scan meditation, which involves lying down flat and deliberately experiencing sensations and emotions related to individual body parts such as your feet, legs, arms, head, and hands.4
In both cases, peace and quiet are essential. If staff can’t find a quiet area to practice mindfulness without interruption, they won’t be able to reap the benefits of meditation. As a result, hospices are encouraged to both designate a specific space for mindfulness — such as an office or breakroom — and create a schedule that allows nurses and clinicians to sign up for mindfulness sessions. By making mindfulness part of everyday operations, rather than a one-off effort, hospices can help staff reconnect, reinvigorate and reduce total stress.
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Self-Care in Hospice Care
1 National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “Burnout in Palliative Care Nurses, Prevalence and Risk Factors: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis,” October 21, 2020.
2 Greater Good Magazine, “What Is Mindfulness?”, 2022
3 National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Mindfulness in Healthcare Professionals and Medical Education,” November 12, 2020.
4 Mayo Clinic, “Mindfulness Exercises,” September 15, 2020.