Certified nursing assistants improved stress management and well‐being and found greater compassion toward residents after participating in self-compassion classes designed for healthcare workers, a new study has found.

Investigators aimed to determine whether self-compassion training could have an effect on the high levels of stress known to be faced by these frontline workers.

Three mid‐size, nonprofit nursing homes in North Carolina participated in the program, which introduced standardized, mindful self-compassion interventions. Participants included 30 CNAs, with a mean age of 49.

One nursing home’s staff members received eight weeks of 2.5-hour classes (20 hours total). CNAs at the two other facilities took part in a shorter, newer version of the course over a total of six hours. Classes were taught by trained providers and were held in meeting rooms during shift changes. 

The CNAs were instructed on guided meditation practices, practiced skill-building exercises and engaged in discussions following the activities. They also were encouraged to practice their newly learned skills at home, and they were referred to website audio recordings of meditation practices.

At four times before and after the interventions, investigators reviewed the CNAs’ attendance, retention of the lessons, and acceptability. They also assessed changes in self‐compassion, stress, burnout, depression, attitudes toward residents with dementia, and job satisfaction.

Attendance and program satisfaction were high, the researchers found. In addition, self‐compassion was significantly improved at all time periods, and stress and depression improved significantly through three months, although not at six months. No statistically significant change in job satisfaction was noted. The apparent reversal of improvement in stress and depression at six months may signal the need for a refresher, the researchers wrote.

The positive trends in outcomes and overall acceptance of the program suggests that it is feasible in a nursing home setting, and useful for attendees, the authors concluded.

Attendance was higher in the shorter program, and there were challenges recruiting participants for the 20 hour program, the authors noted.  They recommend the briefer six-hour format to maximize participation while still providing benefits.

The programs included “Caring for others without losing yourself: an adaptation of the mindful self compassion program for healthcare communities” and “The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook,” by K. Neff and C.K. Germer.