Theses Doctoral

The Effect of Mindfulness Meditation on the Stress, Anxiety, Mindfulness, and Self-Compassion Levels of Nursing Students

Heinrich, Debra S.

Studies have revealed that nursing students experience greater amounts of stress and anxiety than the average college student. Nursing students attribute increased stress levels to the twin demands of their classroom and clinical workloads. Higher stress levels frequently result in students reporting symptoms of poor health and lack of psychological well-being. It is important to note that some nursing students are also actively working in clinical settings and contending with the added stress of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Mindfulness meditation is a natural measure that can help alleviate the feelings of perceived stress and anxiety and improve levels of mindfulness and self-compassion.

An experimental two group pretest-posttest randomized controlled design was used to evaluate the effect of a virtual mindfulness meditation intervention on levels of perceived stress, anxiety, self-compassion, and mindfulness of nursing students. Study participants were randomly assigned to either an intervention or control group and received recordings prepared by the study authors. The intervention group received a 10-minute mindfulness meditation recording each week and the control group simultaneously received five 10-minute separate recordings on nursing news and information. Both groups were instructed to listen to the recordings at least three days per week for four weeks. The instruments used in this study were the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the Generalized Anxiety Disorder subscale (GAD-7), the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS), and the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). These surveys were provided at baseline and at a 4-week follow-up. The study presented in this dissertation is part of a larger study that was a collaboration between this author, Debra Heinrich, and Shohini Holden. Other instruments in the original study that are not discussed here are the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS) and the Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ).

This dissertation consists of three articles. The first article provides an analysis of the effect of a mindfulness meditation intervention on the stress and anxiety levels of nursing students. A two-way mixed ANOVA revealed a significant interaction between group assignment and timing of test on participants’ stress levels and on their anxiety levels. Follow-up simple main effects tests involving independent-samples t tests revealed that the intervention group, receiving the online mindfulness meditation recordings, experienced lower levels of stress and anxiety on the posttest surveys than the control group. The second article reports on a study of the effect of the intervention on mindfulness and self-compassion levels.

The findings of a two-way mixed ANOVA and independent t tests demonstrated that mindfulness meditation can increase levels of mindfulness and self-compassion in nursing students. The third article compares two instruments used to self-report feelings of anxiety, reports on the demographic variables related to anxiety among nursing students, and explores the correlation between levels of mindfulness and levels of anxiety in this study. There were no significant relationships found between any demographic variable and anxiety scores. The GAD-7 instrument was found to be more sensitive to mild and moderate anxiety then the DASS instrument, and it is, therefore, the recommended instrument for use in nursing programs. There was a significant inverse relationship between levels of mindfulness and anxiety for students in this study.

The findings of this study demonstrate that mindfulness meditation can reduce stress and anxiety, while increasing mindfulness and self-compassion levels in nursing students. This could be useful for nurse educators assisting students to manage the stress and anxiety often experienced in nursing education. Nursing programs could screen students to evaluate their levels of stress, anxiety, and mindfulness. Stress relief techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, could be incorporated into nursing programs as part of a wellness program or curricular offering. Mindfulness meditation could also be part of orientation programs in clinical sites for new nurses and offered to all nursing staff as part of continuing education. Further research, using rigorous scientific methods, will be needed to study the most effective methods to evaluate and manage stress and anxiety. This could ultimately decrease the stress and anxiety levels and improve well-being for student nurses and nurses, which could in turn positively impact patient care and outcomes.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
O'Connell, Kathleen
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 15, 2022