Medicina Intensiva has recently published the article Application of a mindfulness program among healthcare professionals in an intensive care unit: Effect on burnout, empathy and self-compassion.

Mates from the ICU of Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron held a clinical session/workshop on the practice of mindfulness and its usefulness. The possibility of following an 8-week training program with specifically designed short guided practices supported by a virtual community based on a WhatsApp group was offered. A weekly proposal in audio and text format and daily reminders with stimulating messages of practice were sent. 32 team members enrolled to this activity: 8 (25%) doctors, 13 (40.6%) nurses and 11 (34.4%) auxiliary health personnel.

All care providers know the need to implement strategies to improve the work environment. These actions must first look after the working conditions (rests, loads, remuneration, healthy environment). However, we should not ignore the importance of developing individual internal coping resources (resilience, cognitive flexibility and self-awareness) in the face of stressful conditions, high emotional impact and uncertainty that are daily experienced in the ICU.

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is associated with the Buddhist tradition, when this word was used in 1881 for the English translation of the term “sati” of the Pali Hindu language, a polysemic term that includes the concepts of attention, understanding and memory and which refers to a Buddhist instruction as a means of knowledge.

Since the mid-eighties these practices have been combined with approaches of modern psychology and have been developed as a secular training, far from Buddhism, which is subject of scientific research. Thus, mindfulness is  is considered as the capacity of the human being that allows to focus the attention to the experience in the present moment, both to what the human being experiences inside and to the environment, with an attitude of opening, curiosity, acceptance and kindness. In this sense it can also be understood as a metacognitive ability, a trait or attitude that can be chosen to cultivate. The term is also used to refer to practices to develop this ability. These practices have been structured in specific programs that have shown their efficacy in clinical environments, for the control of stress (Mindfulness-Bases Stress Reduction-MBSR) and in preventing the relapses of major depression (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy-MBCT).

After the intervention they had a positive effect on the “emotional fatigue” factor for the global of the subjects (difference in mean of − 3.78 points). In the “Personal fulfillment” dimension, the positive effect only reaches statistical significance in doctors.

The valuation of the mindfulness state or full attention, measured by the FFMQ is not modified globally pre and Postprogramme. However, if we analyze separately the different subscales, four of the five show significant variations after the instruction. The global is not significantly modified because the variance occurs in the opposite direction. The factors of ‘observation’ and ‘absence of reactivity’ are increased and they decrease ‘by acting with conscience’ and ‘absence of juice‘.

Jefferson’s empathy scale showed no significant changes after the program.

The overall results of the self-compassion scale are significantly higher after the instructional program. Although on average all professional categories experience an increase in self-compassion, this increase only reaches statistical significance in doctors. The separate analysis of the three main subscales also shows a significant postprogramme increase. The most important factor is ‘shared humanity’. By professional category the observed increase reaches statistical significance for physicians in the Subfactor “self-compassion-self-kindness” and “shared humanity”, and for auxiliary health personnel in “mindfulness.

The authors conclude that a short personal practice mindfulness training program, supported by the creation of a virtual community through WhatsApp in ICU health professionals has shown psychological and cognitive effects that can produce wellbeing and influence burnout by reducing emotional fatigue and increasing self-compassion.

All this can result in an improvement in the quality of service to the users of health systems.