Gratitude Journaling

Objective: Chronic occupational stress is common among health care practitioners, with potential impacts on personal mental health and staff turnover. This study investigated whether directing practitioners’ attention to thankful events in work could reduce stress and depressive symptoms.

Method: A double-blind randomized controlled trial was conducted in 5 public hospitals with follow-up to 3 months posttreatment. One hundred two practitioners were randomly assigned into 3 conditions: gratitude, hassle, and nil-treatment. Those with scheduled long leaves were excluded. Participants in the gratitude and hassle group wrote work-related gratitude and hassle diaries respectively twice a week for 4 consecutive weeks. A no-diary group served as control. Depressive symptoms (primary outcome) and perceived stress (secondary outcome) were collected at baseline, posttreatment, and 3-month follow-up. Intent-to-treat analyses were performed with mixed-effects regression.

Results: Significant Treatment × Time interaction effects were found for the gratitude intervention, whether it was compared with control or hassle; the general pattern was a decline in stress and depressive symptoms over time, but the rate of decline became less pronounced as time progressed. Hassle and control were basically indistinct from each other. Relative to control, the gratitude group reported lower depressive symptoms (-1.50 points; 95% CI [-2.98, -0.01]; d = -0.49) and perceived stress (-2.65 points; 95% CI [-4.00, -1.30]; d = -0.95) at follow-up. RESULTS for the comparison between gratitude and hassle were similar.

Conclusion: Taking stock of thankful events is an effective approach to reduce stress and depressive symptoms among health care practitioners.

Stress Management for Hypertension (LifeSkills Workshop)

While behavioral interventions can improve blood pressure (BP) in individuals with hypertension, getting such services to people who could benefit remains difficult. Workplace programs have potential as dissemination vehicles. The objective is to evaluate the effectiveness of a standardized stress management program delivered in groups at the workplace for reducing BP compared with enhanced usual care. This randomized controlled trial studied 92 urban medical center employees with hypertension randomized into two groups. The intervention was a 10-week group workshop on cognitive-behavioral coping skills. Enhanced usual care included self-help materials for BP reduction and physician referral. Intervention group participants’ systolic BP (SBP) decreased 7.5 mm Hg over controls between baseline and follow-up, from 149.1 (95% CI: 146.0–152.1) to 140.0 (95% CI: 134.7–145.2), p < .001. The differential change between intervention and enhanced usual care groups (Group × Time interaction) was 7.5 mm Hg (t = −2.05; p = .04). Diastolic BP reductions were not significantly different. Scores on measures of emotional exhaustion and depressive rumination showed significant improvements and correlated with reductions in SBP. There was no significant change in the usual care group. A standardized worksite group intervention produced clinically meaningful reductions in SBP in participants with hypertension.

Practice: A standardized 10-session stress and anger management program delivered in groups in the workplace proved to be a practical and successful approach to reducing SBP in hypertensive employees.

Research: The possibility of decreases in BP being mediated by changes in emotional exhaustion or depressive rumination should be explored in future research and can be effective in reducing BP in hypertensive employees.

Policy: The workplace may be an excellent venue for dissemination of group psychosocial interventions to address chronic conditions or health behaviors, given the high rate of retention of participants in completing the intervention.

Healthy Ageing at Work

Objective: This multicentre, randomised controlled trial (RCT) aimed to evaluate the efficacy of a small-group intervention promoting successful ageing at work in older nurses (aged ≥45).

Method: A sample of 115 nurses aged ≥45 from 4 trial sites in Germany were randomly assigned to either the intervention group (IG), that received a small-group intervention of seven weekly sessions of 120 min with a booster session after six weeks or to a wait-list control condition (WLC). Outcomes were measured via validated self-report questionnaires at baseline (T1) and at post-treatment (T2). Primary outcomes were mental health-related well-being and mental health-related quality of life (QOL). The secondary outcomes included mental health-related and work-related measures.

Results: The intention to treat (ITT) analysis showed significant positive effects of the intervention on mental health. A significant small effect (d = 0.3) in favour of the IG was found for psychological health-related quality of life. Positive small effects (d = 0.24 to d = 0.31) were also found for work related mental strain.

Conclusions: Our small-group intervention based on a theory of successful ageing for nurses aged ≥45 was found to be effective with regard to improvements of psychological health related quality of life and other mental health-related outcomes. Thus, our study shows that the ageing workforce can be reached through specifically designed preventive interventions. The components of our intervention could be easily adapted to the belongings of other professions. Our results suggest that these components should be evaluated in various settings outside the healthcare sector.

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Life (MBCT-L)

Healthcare workers play a critical role in the health of a nation, yet rates of healthcare worker stress are disproportionately high. We evaluated whether mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for life (MBCT-L), could reduce stress in healthcare workers and target a range of secondary outcomes.

Method: This is the first parallel randomised controlled trial of MBCT-L. Participants were NHS workers, who were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive either MBCT-L or wait-list. The primary outcome was self-reported stress at post-intervention. Secondary variables were well-being, depression, anxiety, and work-related outcomes. Mixed regressions were used. Mindfulnessand self/other-compassion were explored as potential mechanisms of effects on stress and wellbeing.

Results: We assigned 234 participants to MBCT-L (n = 115) or to wait-list (n = 119). 168 (72%) participants completed the primary outcome and of those who started the MBCT-L 73.40% (n = 69) attended the majority of the sessions. MBCT-L ameliorated stress compared with controls (B = 2.60, 95% CI = 1.63‒3.56; d = -0.72; p < .0001). Effects were also found for well-being, depression and anxiety, but not for work-related outcomes. Mindfulnessand self-compassion mediated effects on stress and wellbeing.

Conclusions: MBCT-L could be an effective and acceptable part of a wider healthcare workers well-being and mental health strategy.

Eclectic Psychotherapy-Telecounseling

Background: Preliminary reports suggest that during the COVID-19 pandemic, telecounseling could be an effective model of psychological intervention for the frontline healthcare workers (fHCW) with psychological problems. Literature is sparse in this area, particularly from low- and middle-income countries, including India. We aimed to investigate the feasibility and the effectiveness of telecounseling (vs. general education) on the psychological problems of the fHCW over three time-points (baseline vs. end-of-session and at two and four weeks after the intervention).

Methods: The study followed a single-blind, active arm versus general education, parallel-group randomized control design, with participant allocation in 1:1. Active healthcare workers (HCWs) with mild- to-severe or clinically concerning scores on any of the sub-scales of Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) or Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R; represented by higher scores) were included, while those with known psychiatric illness were excluded. Chi-square and Mann-Whitney U test and linear-mixed effect model (group-, time, and group by time-effect) were used for analysis.

Results: There were no baseline group differences (telecounseling group, active arm, n = 9; general education group, control arm, n = 10). A significant time-effect (P = 0.044 to <.001) was found on DASS-21 on intention-to-treat analysis. Per-protocol analysis, additionally, found a significant group effect on Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R; P = 0.036). A significant random effect of the participants was also found (P <.001).

Conclusion: Telecounseling could be a feasible and scalable model of psychological interventions for the fHCW with psychological problems, albeit with some feasibility challenges.

Support.Transform.Achieve.Results (STAR)

We tested the effects of a work-family intervention on employee reports of safety compliance and organizational citizenship behaviors in 30 health care facilities using a group-randomized trial. Based on conservation of resources theory and the work-home resources model, we hypothesized that implementing a work-family intervention aimed at increasing contextual resources via supervisor support for work and family, and employee control over work time, would lead to improved personal resources and increased employee performance on the job in the form of self-reported safety compliance and organizational citizenship behaviors. Multilevel analyses used survey data from 1,524 employees at baseline and at 6-month and 12-month postintervention follow-ups.

Significant intervention effects were observed for safety compliance at the 6-month, and organizational citizenship behaviors at the 12-month, followups. More specifically, results demonstrate that the intervention protected against declines in employee self-reported safety compliance and organizational citizenship behaviors compared with employees in the control facilities. The hypothesized mediators of perceptions of family-supportive supervisor behaviors, control over work time, and work-family conflict (work-to-family conflict, family-to-work conflict) were not significantly improved by the intervention. However, baseline perceptions of family-supportive supervisor behaviors, control over work time, and work-family climate were significant moderators of the intervention effect on the self-reported safety compliance and organizational citizenship behavior outcomes.

Pandemic Influenza Stress Vaccine

Working in a hospital during an extraordinary infectious disease outbreak can cause significant stress and contribute to healthcare workers choosing to reduce patient contact. Psychological training of healthcare workers prior to an influenza pandemic may reduce stress-related absenteeism, however, established training methods that change behavior and attitudes are too resource-intensive for widespread use. This study tests the feasibility and effectiveness of a less expensive alternative – an interactive, computer-assisted training course designed to build resilience to the stresses of working during a pandemic.
A “dose-finding” study compared pre-post changes in three different durations of training. We measured variables that are likely to mediate stress-responses in a pandemic before and after training: confidence in support and training, pandemic-related self-efficacy, coping style and interpersonal problems.
158 hospital workers took the course and were randomly assigned to the short (7 sessions, median cumulative duration 111 minutes), medium (12 sessions, 158 minutes) or long (17 sessions, 223 minutes) version. Using an intention-to-treat analysis, the course was associated with significant improvements in confidence in support and training, pandemic self-efficacy and interpersonal problems. Participants who under-utilized coping via problem-solving or seeking support or over-utilized escape-avoidance experienced improved coping. Comparison of doses showed improved interpersonal problems in the medium and long course but not in the short course. There was a trend towards higher drop-out rates with longer duration of training.
Computer-assisted resilience training in healthcare workers appears to be of significant benefit and merits further study under pandemic conditions. Comparing three “doses” of the course suggested that the medium course was optimal.

Focus on Consciousness (FoCo)

Situational awareness is especially important to decision-making in health care. Comprehending the situation is crucial for anticipating any change in the environment and delivering optimal care. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of a training to increase situational awareness and mutual care designed for health care workers (FoCo) in a randomized controlled trial with additional qualitative analysis. We also investigated the perception of the training for the COVID-19 pandemic moment, in May 2020, almost 6 months after we finished the data collection at the Emergency Care Unit, which became a COVID-19 treatment reference for the care of a population depending on the public health system, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We conclude that FoCo training can be an important instrument for health care professionals both in times of pandemic and “normal times,” to increase situational awareness, the culture of mutual care and decrease the possibility of occupational injuries and illnesses.

Problem-based Rehabilitation Method (PBR)

Aim: This paper is a report of a study to test the effect of participating in a reflecting peer-support group on self-reported health, burnout and on perceived changes in work conditions.

Background: Stress-related conditions are one of the most common causes for long-term sick-leave. There is limited evidence for the effectiveness of person-directed interventions aimed at reducing stress levels in healthcare workers. Prior research in the relationship between support and burnout show somewhat inconsistent results.

Method: A randomized controlled trial with peer-support groups as the intervention was conducted with 660 healthcare workers scoring above the 75th percentile on the exhaustion dimension of the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory. One hundred and fifty-one (22.9%) agreed to participate. The intervention started in 2002 with 51 participants (96.1% were women), 80 of whom constituted the control group. Potential differences in outcome measures 12 months after the intervention were compared using ancova, and data collected was completed in 2004. Qualitative content analyses were used to analyse reported experiences from group participation.

Results: Statistically significant intervention effects were found for general health, perceived quantitative demands at work, participation and development opportunities at work and in support at work. Seven categories of experiences from participating were identified: talking to others in a similar situation, knowledge, sense of belonging, self-confidence, structure, relief of symptoms and behavioural change.

Conclusion: Peer-support groups using a problem-based method could be a useful and comparatively inexpensive tool in alleviating work-related stress and burnout.

Mindfulness-based Resilience Training (MBRT)

Emotional exhaustion (EE) in health care workers is common and consequentially linked to lower quality of care. Effective interventions to address EE are urgently needed.
This randomized single-exposure trial examined the efficacy of a gratitude letter–writing intervention for improving health care workers’ well-being.
A total of 1575 health care workers were randomly assigned to one of two gratitude letter–writing prompts (self- vs other focused) to assess differential efficacy. Assessments of EE, subjective happiness, work-life balance, and tool engagement were collected at baseline and 1-week post intervention. Participants received their EE score at baseline and quartile benchmarking scores. Paired-samples t tests, independent t tests, and correlations explored the efficacy of the intervention. Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software assessed the linguistic content of the gratitude letters and associations with well-being.
Participants in both conditions showed significant improvements in EE, happiness, and work-life balance between the intervention and 1-week follow-up (P<.001). The self-focused (vs other) instruction conditions did not differentially predict improvement in any of the measures (P=.91). Tool engagement was high, and participants reporting higher motivation to improve their EE had higher EE at baseline (P.05).
This single-exposure gratitude letter–writing intervention appears to be a promising low-cost, brief, and meaningful tool to improve the well-being of health care workers.