Sarah Heynen, DCoE Public Affairs on October 21, 2015
We know mindfulness practices can help service members and veterans cope with their physical and psychological injuries. This practice is also a great tool for providers to build their own resilience while they treat wounded warriors.
Treating members of the military can be a highly-rewarding experience, but it can also bring high levels of stress. Providers who treat service members, veterans and their families are at risk of experiencing compassion fatigue, burnout or secondary traumatic stress. Bearing witness to suffering and feeling powerless over other people’s pain can contribute to stress and fatigue, as do long hours, lack of social support and lack of downtime. Additionally, when providers are stressed and feel burned out, they may find it difficult to fully focus on their patients.
Creating a regular mindfulness practice, such as mindfulness meditation or mindfulness-based stress reduction, can help providers cope with the daily stressors of their jobs. The benefits of mindfulness for providers are similar to the outcomes for patients: stress reduction, improved memory, increased focus, decreased emotional reactivity, improved cognitive flexibility and greater relationship satisfaction. In a recent study, a continuing education course on mindfulness-based stress reduction resulted in a reduction in burnout rates and an increase in the overall well-being of providers.
With regular mindfulness practice, providers learn to train their brains to stay present in the moment — this benefits both providers and their patients.
In addition to mindfulness practices, there are other resources available to help providers stay mentally healthy and resilient. Here are a few we think are worth checking out:
- Provider Resilience is a mobile application by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology that gives health care providers tools to guard against burnout and compassion fatigue as they help service members, veterans and their families.
- Mindfulness Coach is a mobile application created to introduce the concept and skill of practicing mindfulness to help focus. The app is a collaborative product of the National Center for Telehealth and Technology and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- “Provider Resiliency and Self-Care: An Ethical Issue” is an interactive online training course from the Center for Deployment Psychology that provides an overview on how to increase provider resilience. The course also looks at how organizations and individuals can implement strategies that promote self-care, reduce compassion fatigue and burnout, and maintain high-quality ethical practice.
- Working with Trauma Survivors: What Workers Need to Know is a page on the National Center for PTSD website that shares information on compassion fatigue, burnout and secondary traumatic stress, as well as warning signs and resources to cope with these challenges.