A study of mindfulness-informed group process: Towards burnout prevention and treatment

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Grounded Theory

Background: Chronic work-related stress, known as burnout, is damaging to patient’s recovery, healthcare professional’s health and the organization’s functioning. Burnout increases medical errors and healthcare costs through a cascade of effects, including a decrease in work quality, job satisfaction, and retention. Prevention and treatment strategies have focused on the improvement of the organizational environment or building individual resiliency. While important, these have not adequately addressed the vital role groups play in the management of stress. I posit the need for new approaches inclusive of innovative group strategies that bring about the co-regulation of stress in work groups. Mindfulness-informed group process is one such approach that appears to improve group functioning through a combination of safe group development infused with mindfulness. Methodology: To better understand the principles of mindfulness-informed group process, this research used a constructivist grounded theory methodology to develop a mindfulness-informed group theory. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews, relevant scholarly literature collated through systematic reviews, and additional related published materials. Interviews were conducted with mindfulness-informed group leaders, each with extensive training in a mindfulness-informed practice and group therapy. Results: Findings detailed an interlocking process whereby the leader’s mindfulness and the form of the group infuse the interpersonal mindfulness of the group. This creates an interpersonal field where mindfulness is practiced and trained as a skill. Mindfulness-informed group leaders play a vital role in the development of mindfulness-awareness in the group through their openness, genuineness and skillful communication. Interpersonal mindfulness allows for enhanced communication as member’s signal safety facilitated by the skillful articulation of feelings and thoughts in-the-moment within workplace constraints. Members create connections and social support, which appears to allow for increased self-regulation of stress through mindfulness and co-regulation through interpersonal mindfulness. Discussion: Mindfulness-informed group theory offers insights into the regulation of stress and burnout for healthcare leaders and professionals in small group environments. It does so by highlighting the development of safe group environments through the practice of interpersonal mindfulness in work interactions. Burnout is best addressed through improving individual resilience, the development of safe interpersonal environments and organizational efforts to support professionals in healthcare delivery.

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Daniel Vigo
Heesoon Bai
Health Sciences: Faculty of Health Sciences
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.