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Finding peace in the ER

Burnout is common among nurses. An ASU dean says mindfulness can help.
June 7, 2018

ASU College of Nursing Dean Emerita Teri Pipe on how mindfulness can prevent health provider burnout and improve patient outcomes

We count on nurses for a lot of things — to be a calming presence, a helping hand, a source of knowledge. Filling those roles is demanding enough, and with the added pressure of a nursing shortage on the horizon, already tired, overworked RNsregistered nurses may not be getting a break any time soon.

As dean emerita of ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, Teri Pipe knows all about burnout in the health care field. As the director of ASU’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, she also knows about a potent antidote.

For Pipe’s final project for her Robert Wood Johnson Executive Fellowship, she created a video featuring nurses telling stories of how they used the practice of mindfulness to help them through difficult situations. “In the Moment: Stories of Mindfulness in Nursing” was recently accepted to the National Academy of Medicine’s new art collection on clinician well-being and resilience.

ASU Now asked her to share more of her insights about the practice and how it is beneficial for both nurses and patients alike.

ASU nursing dean Teri Pipe headshot

Dean of ASU's College of Nursing and Health Innovation Teri Pipe

Question: What does mindfulness in the health care field look like? How is it practiced?

Answer: In health care, mindfulness at its best is often practiced as a focused presence between the health care provider and the patient. Mindfulness is focused awareness to what is happening for that particular patient in the moment; it is linked with patient safety and quality of care because providers are able to filter out unimportant distractions and care for the patient. It is an unhurried, empathetic way of being with someone, listening carefully not only to the words that are said, but also to the underlying meaning and emotional tone. 

Q: How is the practice of mindfulness beneficial to nurses and other health care providers?

A: Mindfulness can be an excellent way of preventing and addressing burnout, exhaustion and compassion fatigue. By focusing on the present moment, nurses and other health-care providers can keep the mind from being pulled to the past (rumination, depression) or the future (worry, anxiety) and stay focused on the reality of the present. In this way, people are more able to live by design rather than by default, making more considered choices rather than simply reacting automatically. Once an individual learns to practice mindfulness, it is often the case that they feel more “awake” and alert to all of life, personally as well as professionally.

Q: Can it also be beneficial to patients?

A: Patients often face uncertainty, fear and pain. Mindfulness can’t change the situation, however it can help change the response to the situation, which turns out to be quite powerful. When patients practice even a few minutes of focused breath awareness or a mental scan through the body, they often feel calmer and less likely to create a cognitive narrative of what is happening. By staying with what is real and true in the present moment, the anxiety of the future and the regret of the past are less powerful, and the patient can more effectively allocate attention and energy to what is actually true. They are able to shape their experience a bit more.

I once taught a mindfulness class to a group of patients with cancer. One of the gentlemen was receiving daily radiation treatments, so he decided that instead of just lying passively on the radiation table, he would use his treatment time as his meditation practice time. He said it totally changed his experience into one of active, well-being supportive attention rather than feeling like something was being done “to” him. His situation didn’t change, but his experience of it did. He showed up so differently that his health care team actually remarked on the difference!

Q: Why is the practice of mindfulness gaining traction in the health care field?

A: Jon Kabat-Zinn brought mindfulness to patients at UMass Medical Center as early as 1979, and his eight-week training program, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, is the gold standard in terms of the emerging research in the area of mindfulness and health. Mindfulness practice for nurses, physicians, veterinarians and other health-care professionals is being more widely recognized as a preventive strategy for anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. The rate of burnout, depression and suicide in these sectors is high and receiving more attention than in the past. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement recently published an entire module in their Open School about mindfulness in health care, including the link between mindfulness and patient safety and mindfulness and workforce burnout prevention.

Q:  How is ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation incorporating mindfulness into its philosophy?

A: The college leadership has implemented mindfulness practices in some meetings and in individual classes. There is a CONHICollege of Nursing and Health Innovation major in integrative health that has a component of mindfulness, but mostly the integration of mindfulness depends a lot on the individual faculty member. We want to make mindfulness an opportunity, but not a mandated approach. Like many innovations, it is best met with an open mind and healthy skepticism, and it is a very personal practice. Across ASU we are finding that faculty are integrating mindfulness practices into courses in most disciplines, including health, engineering, design, dance, psychology, sustainability and athletics. It is relevant to virtually any field.

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

 
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ASU’s Tillman Scholars poised to tackle society’s toughest problems

June 7, 2018

Two Arizona State University graduate student veterans who are passionate about making a positive impact in society have been named Tillman ScholarsFounded in 2008, the Tillman Scholars program supports the nation’s service members, veterans and military spouses by investing in education and professional development. The program provides academic scholarships, a national network and professional development opportunities, so Tillman Scholars are empowered to make an impact at home and around the world. To date, the Pat Tillman Foundation has invested more than $16 million in academic support, and named over 580 Tillman Scholars at over 100 academic institutions nationwide. for the Class of 2018, the Pat Tillman Foundation announced Wednesday.

Air Force veteran Lindsay Lorson and Arizona Army National Guard veteran Vivin Paliath are among an elite group of only 60 national recipients selected this year to the 10th Tillman Scholar class that collectively will receive over $1.3 million in scholarship funding.

On a mission to help the vulnerable

Former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lindsay Lorson is one of two Arizona State University graduate students selected to be a Tillman Scholar. Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force

“I was honored, humbled and surprised,” Lorson said about her selection. “Pat Tillman’s legacy and his commitment to service and community, it’s legendary … it speaks to me.”

Lorson’s 13-year Air Force career sent her all over the world, including serving as a flight attendant on Air Force Two where she worked for Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden. It was through these travels and an Afghanistan deployment that the North Dakota native found her true calling: helping vulnerable people.

“That’s what really opened up my eyes to the extreme poverty in the world,” Lorson said. “Some things you just can’t turn away from or you just can’t get out of your head, the things that you see.”

Since then, Lorson, now an Air Force spouse stationed in Kentucky, has worked with vulnerable populations such as wounded veterans. She also spent time in Cambodia working with a humanitarian agency rescuing children.

“These are kids that were anywhere from 3 to 13 that were being sold by their parents, because their parents were so poor and they couldn’t provide for them,” Lorson said. “So they were being rescued from human trafficking situations and being brought to the center to be taught life skills.”

Lorson, a licensed social worker, is an ASU Online student pursing a second master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on applied behavior analysis from ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. She heard about the program through a Facebook military spouse network page for mental health professionals.

“Everybody spoke highly of Arizona State’s program, so I applied,” she said.

While she intends to continue combating human trafficking, her main goal now is to expand her current work with autistic children by providing full spectrum care, something that her new degree will cover.  

“I just want to serve these vulnerable populations, kids, families, victims of human trafficking,” Lorson said. “I feel like I have a gift for it, and I don’t want to waste it. I’m honored to be named a Pat Tillman scholar and excited for what that brings.”  

Continuing service in cybersecurity

Arizona Army National Guard Veteran Vivin Paliath

Former Arizona Army National Guard Soldier Vivin Paliath in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2006. Paliath is one of two ASU students selected as Tillman Scholars for the class of 2018.

An immigrant from India who grew up in Oman before his family moved to California in 1999, Vivin Paliath is also passionate about helping others.  But his path is by protecting computer networks, which are vulnerable to attack and yet pivotal to the functioning of just nearly all elements of modern society. 

“That’s really relevant right now, with all the Russian hacking and they’re basically interfering all over the world,” said Paliath, a computer science PhD student with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “It’s a pretty big concern right now with what is happening. I feel like people really haven’t woken up to the threat yet.”

Having served as a logistics specialist in the Arizona Army National Guard, including a one-year combat tour in Baghdad, Paliath sees his future in cybersecurity as a continuation of his service to the nation but in a civilian capacity.

“It gives me an opportunity to kind of come back to what I was doing in the military,” said Paliath, who rose from junior software engineer to senior software architect during his 10 years with Chandler-based software company Infusionsoft. “Basically, protecting the country but at the same time leveraging my academic knowledge and my professional experience.”

In the near term, Paliath will be building up software for a cybersecurity and threat intelligence startup company. Eventually, he plans to research the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“That’s kind of my long-term goal,” Paliath said. “At root I’m like an engineer, so I like to solve problems.”

Paliath pursued the Tillman Scholars Program after the Pat Tillman Veterans Center connected him with a former ASU recipient who suggested he apply after hearing his story. He successfully went through the multistage application process but didn’t have high expectations.

“When they told me I kind of didn’t believe it at first,” Paliath said.

Although he doesn’t necessarily crave recognition, Paliath admits that it feels good to occasionally see indications that he is doing something right.

“I’m really humbled by getting this award and really thankful for the opportunity,” he said. “I’m hoping I can live up to Pat Tillman’s legacy.”

Top photo: The Pat Tillman statue stands at the entrance of the new Tillman Tunnel on the north end of Sun Devil Stadium. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications