Does Mindfulness Decrease Stress and Foster Empathy among Nursing Students?
This pilot study of baccalaureate nursing students explored the effects of an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course on stress and empathy. The course was intended to provide students with tools to cope with personal and professional stress and to foster empathy through intrapersonal knowing. A convenience sample of 16 students participated in the course, used guided meditation audiotapes at home, and completed journal assignments. Stress and empathy were measured using paired sample t tests. Participation in the intervention significantly reduced students' anxiety (p > .05). Favorable trends were observed in a number of stress dimensions including attitude, time pressure, and total stress. Two dimensions of empathy--personal distress and fantasy--also demonstrated favorable downward trends. Regular home meditation was correlated with additional benefit. Participants reported using meditation in daily life and experiencing greater well-being and improved coping skills as a result of the program. Findings suggest that being mindful may also decrease tendencies to take on others' negative emotions. Coping with stress and fostering the affective domain are important facets of nursing education that may be facilitated by mindfulness training.