Practicing Gratitude Can Help Keep Burnout at Bay, Researchers Say

Recent study delved into ways of supporting overworked health-care professionals.

Kelly Prozialeck, AdventHealth, for Southern Tidings
Practicing Gratitude Can Help Keep Burnout at Bay, Researchers Say
Practicing gratitude can be good medicine for overworked health-care professionals, according to a recent study conducted by AdventHealth researchers. [Photo: AdventHealth]

Practicing gratitude can be good medicine, according to a recent study conducted by AdventHealth researchers.

Three clinical leaders from AdventHealth DeLand and AdventHealth Fish Memorial in Florida, United States, published a timely, first-of-its-kind research study in the 2024 fall issue of Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.

“Work stress and burnout are reported barriers to quality patient care and job satisfaction,” the study states. “This study aimed to evaluate the effect of participation in a 21-day gratitude journaling intervention on health care professionals’ reported gratitude levels. A secondary aim was to determine the correlation between increased gratitude and decreased work-related stress and burnout.”

The study revealed how practicing gratitude by journaling can help decrease perceived stress and burnout for health-care professionals while also elevating feelings of gratefulness.

Michele Johnson, chief nursing officer at AdventHealth Fish Memorial hospital; Michele Lebron, chief nursing officer at AdventHealth DeLand hospital; and Tammy Land, patient experience manager at AdventHealth Fish Memorial hospital, worked with three other researchers from May through October of 2019 to evaluate the positive impact of keeping a gratitude journal. As part of the study, more than 400 team members journaled for 21 days, recording three things that went well in their day.

“The idea really came to life as a way to help individuals who are caring for others daily take care of their own mental health,” Lebron said. “Nurses are confronted with helping our community deal with many of life’s greatest challenges, so we leaned into taking a closer look at ways we as nurses can keep doing our job to care for others, while also caring for ourselves.”

The AdventHealth virtual nursing program is one of the initiatives that is helping nurses avoid burnout and increase wellness, including an overall sense of gratitude. [Photo: AdventHealth]

The study noted that health-care professionals nationwide report stress and burnout as the biggest barriers to job satisfaction. Before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the stressors experienced by health-care workers included time constraints, workload, and challenging work circumstances, along with juggling multiple roles.

“We wanted to do something that our patients would benefit from,” Land, who is responsible for monitoring patient feedback, explained. “When our team felt happier or said things in a positive way, it also reflected positively on patients’ care experience.”

AdventHealth continues to innovate to improve the experience of patients and alleviate burnout among clinical teams. Following the pandemic, the organization invested in “virtual nurses,” where a registered nurse working offsite connects with patients, after getting their consent, via a webcam in the patient’s room. The virtual nurses are a second set of eyes for bedside nurses, and they help with admissions and discharges, so the onsite care teams can work more closely with high-acuity (i.e., severely ill) patients.

The virtual nurses program helps reduce the workload on bedside nurses. This program allowed nurses to spend more time with their patients while providing them with additional caregivers. As a result, the retention rate for nurses working at the bedside improved significantly.

“These results are something I, personally, am grateful for,” Johnson said. “Knowing our nurses are experiencing greater joy in their roles, which in turn gives a better experience to our patients, makes me smile.”

The original version of this story was posted by Southern Tidings.

Kelly Prozialeck, AdventHealth, for Southern Tidings