Helping the Helpers: Mindfulness Training for Burnout in Pediatric Oncology—A Pilot Program

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Background.Burnout, a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and diminished feelings of accomplishment, is common among pediatric oncology staff. This study explores a mindfulness-based course (MBC) to decrease burnout in a multidisciplinary group of pediatric oncology staff members in the United States and Israel.Materials and methods.Forty-eight participants, mostly nurses, were randomized to either the MBC intervention or a control group. MBC participants received eight weekly sessions of mindfulness education. The primary outcome studied was burnout. Secondary outcomes studied included depression and perceived stress.Results.Nearly 100% of the subjects exhibited signs of burnout at baseline and MBC did not result in any significant improvement in scores on burnout, perceived stress or depression scales. Qualitative analysis of diaries kept by subjects revealed reduced stress, improved inner peace, compassion and joy, better focus and self-awareness and less somatic symptoms in the intervention arm.Conclusions.Burnout is a major problem in pediatric oncology staff. Mindfulness practices can be taught in the workplace and may be a useful component of a multidimensional strategy to reduce burnout in this population.

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