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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Nurses' experiences, expectations, and preferences for mind-body practices to reduce stress

Kathi Kemper1*, Sally Bulla1, Deborah Krueger1, Mary Jane Ott2, Jane A McCool3 and Paula Gardiner4

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Integrative Medicine, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center; Winston-Salem, NC, USA

2 Nursing, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Boston, MA, USA

3 Northeastern University, School of Nursing, Bouve College of Health Sciences, Boston, MA, USA

4 Family Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine; Boston, MA, USA

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011, 11:26  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-26

Published: 11 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Most research on the impact of mind-body training does not ask about participants' baseline experience, expectations, or preferences for training. To better plan participant-centered mind-body intervention trials for nurses to reduce occupational stress, such descriptive information would be valuable.

Methods

We conducted an anonymous email survey between April and June, 2010 of North American nurses interested in mind-body training to reduce stress. The e-survey included: demographic characteristics, health conditions and stress levels; experiences with mind-body practices; expected health benefits; training preferences; and willingness to participate in future randomized controlled trials.

Results

Of the 342 respondents, 96% were women and 92% were Caucasian. Most (73%) reported one or more health conditions, notably anxiety (49%); back pain (41%); GI problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (34%); or depression (33%). Their median occupational stress level was 4 (0 = none; 5 = extreme stress). Nearly all (99%) reported already using one or more mind-body practices to reduce stress: intercessory prayer (86%), breath-focused meditation (49%), healing or therapeutic touch (39%), yoga/tai chi/qi gong (34%), or mindfulness-based meditation (18%). The greatest expected benefits were for greater spiritual well-being (56%); serenity, calm, or inner peace (54%); better mood (51%); more compassion (50%); or better sleep (42%). Most (65%) wanted additional training; convenience (74% essential or very important), was more important than the program's reputation (49%) or scientific evidence about effectiveness (32%) in program selection. Most (65%) were willing to participate in a randomized trial of mind-body training; among these, most were willing to collect salivary cortisol (60%), or serum biomarkers (53%) to assess the impact of training.

Conclusions

Most nurses interested in mind-body training already engage in such practices. They have greater expectations about spiritual and emotional than physical benefits, but are willing to participate in studies and to collect biomarker data. Recruitment may depend more on convenience than a program's scientific basis or reputation. Knowledge of participants' baseline experiences, expectations, and preferences helps inform future training and research on mind-body approaches to reduce stress.