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Stress-management interventions may actually work

Article

Interventions aimed at reducing work-related stress for healthcare workers showed some improvement in how people coped with stress up to a year later

A Cochrane review of stress studies found that interventions aimed at reducing work-related stress for individual health care workers may lead to improvements in how people cope with stress up to a year later.

Stressed doctor: ©DC Studio - stock.adobe.com

Stressed doctor: ©DC Studio - stock.adobe.com

The review included 117 studies on stress interventions, including 89 published between 2013 and 2022. More than 11,000 health care workers worldwide were randomized to different interventions, and stress was assessed by questionnaires.

Strategies for focusing attention on the stress included cognitive behavioral training, training on assertiveness, coping, and communication skills. Interventions that focused attention away from stress included relaxation, mindfulness medication, exercise, massage, acupuncture, and listening to music.

The health care workers studied were experiencing low to moderate levels of stress and burnout.

The researchers noted that health care workers often deal with emotional and stressful situations in patient care, and pressure from relationships with patients, family members, and employers, in addition to long work hours.

The findings showed that health care workers might be able to reduce their stress through individual interventions such as cognitive behavior training, exercising, or listening to music. The researchers said the benefits from stress reduction in workers may also end up benefitting patients or the organizations they work for. The effects may last for up to a year and a combination of interventions may be beneficial, at least in the short term. The report states that employers should facilitate a range of stress interventions for employees, but the long-term effects of these actions is unknown.

While the researchers said more studies are needed, it might be more beneficial to improve working conditions instead of only helping workers deal with the work-related stress. Examples include addressing understaffing, over-working, and anti-social shift patterns.

Previous studies have reported that between 30% and 70% of physicians and nurses experience burnout symptoms as a result of their work.

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© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health