TM AND NURSE BURNOUT—A TIMELY SOLUTION
Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union Conference Presentation, May 9-12, 2017
Presented by Judith Nassali, National Director, African Women and Girls Organization
“It was a great honor to speak recently to over 600 health professionals at the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Conference, 2017. This was the second year in a row I have had the opportunity to address the problems facing nurses and midwives in Uganda and around the world. The theme of this year’s conference was Nursing: A Voice to Lead – Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. In my talk, the Transcendental Meditation technique was presented as a practical tool for reducing nurse burnout, emphasizing the great need to first promote the health and well-being of Uganda’s health professionals…so that they can become a strong and vital voice to lead ‘to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all of all ages’ (Sustainable Goal #3). The response to these talks has been very positive, leading to several presentations at hospitals and nursing schools in Uganda, with a great interest in establishing programmes for health and wellness for nurses in Uganda.”
What Is Nurse Burnout?
There is a great challenge facing nurses and midwives today in every country around the world. High levels of stress, due to overwhelming demands placed upon nurses in hospitals, clinics and private care, are eroding the quality of patient care and diminishing the health and well-being of nurses and the system as a whole. This is known as ‘nurse burnout’ brought about by the inability to relieve the physical and mental symptoms of stress caused by the accumulation of stress day after day. Nurse burnout results in:
- Increased errors in decision making and performance of familiar tasks
- Decreased ability to work with colleagues and supervisors
- Poorer quality of patient care
- Tendency to Leave the profession
In a research study that surveyed nurses in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, it was found that approximately one third of nurses experience “burnout”. In the United States, over 40 percent experience burnout, and this is found in countries all over the world. It is a crisis of global proportion and demands solutions.
Additionally, another key factor compounding nurse burnout, is the carry over of stress on the job to the home and family life, which in turn compounds stress in the workplace. If we are to break this vicious cycle we must begin by building the resiliency of nurses, midwives and caregivers. This is the foundation for building greater resiliency in the healthcare system and improving overall patient care and outcomes.
A Timely Solution To Address Nurse Burnout:
The Transcendental Meditation technique – a scientifically validated approach to reduce burnout and build resiliency
The TM technique is a highly effective meditation practice with an extensive array of benefits for mind, body and behaviors as documented over 600 studies, including 350 published in leading peer-reviewed journals.
TM has been taught to over 7 million people from all walks of life in every part of the world. It is not a religion and requires no life style change. It is easy to learn and easy to do, and is practiced sitting comfortably with eyes closes for 20 minutes twice a day.
African Nurses Now Initiative (ANNI)
African Women and Girls Organization for Total Knowledge is launching African Nurses Now Initiative to provide time-tested solutions to address the crisis of nurse burnout and to build resiliency in the nursing and midwife profession. Uganda is leading the way for this initiative and will share solutions and establish connections with nurse and midwife professionals throughout Africa.
Scientific Research on TM for Nurses and Caregivers
Over 600 studies conducted at over 250 institutions from around the world in the last 40 years qualifies it as a high-impact stress reducing program in all areas, including health, education, business, government and military. Because all problems are people problems, if we address the root cause of stress, then we can build resiliency and improve the quality of life of an individual no matter what the profession or personal situation. For nurses, midwives and caregivers and the current crisis with burnout, this is an essential requirement today. In a profession where mistakes can be of a life or death nature, mistakes must be avoided for the welfare of the patient and the psychological and emotional well-being of the caregiver.
A study in the USA entitled: Stress Reduction With the Transcendental Meditation in Caregivers, involved 24 caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Significant improvements were shown in:
- Perceived stress
- Mood disturbance: including anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue
- Increase in spiritual wellbeing – described as faith in the future and purposefulness
Recently two studies were conducted on TM and nurses…
The first one at Sarasota Hospital in USA entitled: The Effect of the Transcendental Meditation program on Compassion Fatigue and Resiliency Among Nurses, was done with 27 nurses and found that those who learned TM had:
- Decreased symptoms of burnout
- Decreased secondary traumatic stress
- Improved compassion satisfaction, and
- Increased resilience
The second study was done in Canada with graduate nursing students entitled: The Lived Experience of Graduate Nursing Students Who Practice the TM Technique. After learning the TM technique these graduate nursing students reported:
- Enhanced learning and ability to focus, along with
- Greater relaxation and peacefulness
Another important research finding is that TM decreases cortisol, which is the stress hormone. With TM, cortisol levels go down, which results in greater calm, less reactive behavior, and more suitable responses to stressful situations.
Improved Brain Integration With TM
A major area of research has been on brain integration, measuring brain wave activity through EEG, during TM practice.
Studies on brain wave activity during TM found that the profound, deep rest gained during TM positively changes the brain. What happens during TM is that the regions of the brain start working together. This is called coherence, or brain integration. A wide range of benefits result from increased brain integration, because everything we do starts with the orderly functioning of the brain.
Benefits of Increased Brain Integration:
- Increased creativity,
- Higher IQ,
- Increased moral reasoning,
- Less neuroticism,
- Overall clearer thinking.
Increased Activation of Prefrontal Cortex With TM
Additionally, it has been shown that the front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex that is responsible for executive thinking, decision-making and moral reasoning, is activated during TM. Stress takes the prefrontal cortex ‘offline’, causing the impulsive, reactive part of our brain to take over. This is where mistakes can be made, through impulsive behavior rather than measured judgment.
What Nurses and Midwives Have to Say About TM
“Nursing requires compassion, dedication, and patient advocacy. As a nurse practicing the TM technique, I found that deep stresses and fatigue are eliminated, making it easy for me to give the best care to my patients and their families. The TM practice only takes 20 minutes twice a day—a small investment of time for a lifetime of reward.”
“Despite having extra stresses associated with my new responsibilities in leadership, I actually find that I’m less reactive to stress and I’m able to function better. On a more personal note, I’ve been dealing with irritable bowel syndrome for many years, and within the first month of doing TM, my symptoms were gone. Overall my outlook on life is much happier.”
“Nursing demands endurance in order to carry out frequent physical tasks which require standing for long periods, lifting heavy objects, or people. I find that TM relieves my daily general fatigue and increases my energy and dynamism as I perform many tasks throughout the day.”
“I teach pregnant women how to prepare themselves before giving birth but in most cases they come here with no preparation at all. That could make me angry. Since I learned TM I no longer get angry like I used to. I’m no longer stressed. My face was full of lines due to stress, but these days those who knew me before, tell me that I am so relaxed and settled, that even my face is usually happy, but its only because of meditation.”