13 July 2021

The benefits of Mindfulness at Murdostoun by Dr Adam Burnel

Dr Adam Burnel, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist, at Murdostoun Brain Injury Rehabilitation and Neurological Care Centre talks about mindfulness and how it has benefitted staff at the hospital.

‘There is a good evidence that mindfulness based interventions are helpful in dealing with stress both in general and in the health care working environment. There is a UK government level commitment to increasing workforce resilience through these approaches. Many large employers including the NHS in Scotland have embarked on programmes to deliver this.

Mindfulness has its origins in the practice of meditation. It was recognised that this seemed to have a calming effect. Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn started to use this along with associated interventions in his chronic pain clinic. He developed this into the now standard 8 week programme called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR. This has subsequently been tried in a number of different areas and subjected to considerable scientific scrutiny. Measures of stress whether psychological, physiological (e.g. Blood Pressure) and even brain function (scanning studies) have shown beneficial effects. In 2016, researchers pooled the results of several studies carried out in relation to the health care workplace. They found significant reduction in stress on a number of different markers.

The UK government published ‘Mindful Nation’[1] in 2015, which sets out how they regard businesses as responsible for implementing their own mindfulness programmes in order to build workforce resilience. The NHS in Scotland is currently running a programme for exactly this purpose, and I am one of the teachers running these sessions for NHS staff in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

What we did at Murdostoun

In 2019, we provided 30 minute “taster” sessions for any interested staff on the Murdostoun campus and 42 staff attended across a three month period. We offered entry into a standard Eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR programme) which included eight two hour sessions out of working hours, plus one full day consolidation session. 19 staff opted in, and, of these, 11 actually started, with three of these dropping out during the course. These proportions are very similar to those found in the large NHS programme. We assessed stress levels and mindfulness rating before and after the course. At the end of the course, we found that there was up to a 33% increase in mindfulness-based skill and up to a 32% reduction in stress scores. The average reduction in stress score was almost 20%.’

One of our Senior Staff Nurses said: ‘I found the mindfulness course enjoyable and very interesting. I was working in the Neurological Care Centre at the time and that unit can be very challenging, so the mindfulness course was good for me as it helped me de-stress and have a better outlook in general. I was able to look at challenges with a better understanding and was able to be more calm when dealing with a situation. Also, it made me look at life in general differently – in a good way. Adam was excellent at running the course! He was able to explain mindfulness and how it works in day-to-day situations and made everyone feel relaxed. Well worth attending!’

Another attendee said: ‘Enlisting in Dr Burnel’s MBSR course resulted in many personal benefits.  I feel more equipped to deal with life’s stresses, which has directly improved my sleep pattern and my general wellbeing.  I believe having the tools the course provided me with have been essential in helping me cope through our ongoing pandemic.  I am very grateful I had the opportunity to undertake this course and I cannot recommend this highly enough.’

Adam continues: ‘Our admittedly small-scale intervention in the Murdostoun campus was popular and demonstrated objective results. While the main drawback to MBSR is the level of time commitment, in real terms our staff took 30 minutes out of their work-based time. The 16 hours of weekly sessions and the five-hour one-off consolidation event staff all took in their own time. I have no doubt that people here benefitted from their experience and fingers crossed we will be running a second course here later this year!’

Michael Sneddon, Hospital Director at Murdostoun says: “Dr Burnel did a fantastic job in a difficult time at Murdostoun with the pandemic prevailing on everyone’s anxieties in the past  year. From a service point of view, the interactions with staff helped create a positive atmosphere and had tangible benefits for the whole team as a result of attendance. We will definitely be looking at how we can fit this into our busy training schedules not just for this year but for years to come.”

[1] https://www.themindfulnessinitiative.org/mindful-nation-report