Staff mindfulness sessions well received at John Hunter Hospital

By Dr Susannah Ward, Dr Sue Outram
Friday, 16 June, 2017

Staff mindfulness sessions well received at John Hunter Hospital

Hospital initiatives designed to promote employee health and wellbeing can positively contribute to the development of a hospital culture where staff feel valued and role model health behaviour to the community. Such interventions may reduce rates of employee mental illness, absenteeism, burnout and turnover while improving workforce morale, job satisfaction and resilience.

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) are increasingly recognised as well-accepted and cost-effective tool for creating optimal wellbeing. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce rates of anxiety, stress, burnout and mental illness, and improve quality of life and other health outcomes. In hospitals, MBI has been shown to: improve employee wellbeing; reduce work errors; increase work engagement; increase stress resiliency; improve relationships in the workplace; encourage smoking cessation; increase job satisfaction; promote self-compassion; and improve participant sleep quality and quantity.

In order to promote staff health and wellbeing, each Monday during the month of May, free guided mindfulness sessions were held for staff at John Hunter Hospital (JHH), NSW. The sessions were advertised via internal email, flyers were distributed and the sessions held on-site within working hours. Sessions ran for 20 minutes. A brief welcome, explanation of mindfulness and review of its benefits was provided in the first five minutes, a mindfulness of breathing practice was guided over 10 minutes and the remaining five minutes were left for questions and feedback. Three volunteers, experienced in mindfulness practice, shared the facilitation. Participants were instructed in using a focus on the breath to try and let go of distraction, noticing thoughts that arose and turning their attention back to the breath.

Ninety-three different staff attended, from a broad range of clinical and non-clinical areas. Feedback from attendees revealed that for the majority mindfulness was perceived as relevant and helpful to their working and/or home life. They reported it helped with stress, work focus and work productivity. Participants expressed gratitude for the sessions. Given the popularity of the sessions they continued on to the end of the year. To ensure sustainability, the hospital has employed one person for an hour per week to organise and facilitate weekly sessions in 2017.

We conclude that free on-site staff-guided mindfulness sessions held within work hours is a popular and accepted means to promote employee health and wellbeing in hospitals. We hope interventions like this are considered at other sites with the view to promote a workplace culture that values and nurtures employee health and promotes positive health behaviours to the community.


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