Building Resiliency in a Palliative Care Team: A Pilot Study

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2016 Mar;51(3):604-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2015.10.013. Epub 2015 Nov 6.


Context: Palliative care clinicians (PCCs) are vulnerable to burnout as a result of chronic stress related to working with seriously ill patients. Burnout can lead to absenteeism, ineffective communication, medical errors, and job turnover. Interventions that promote better coping with stress are needed in this population.

Objectives: This pilot study tested the feasibility of the Relaxation Response Resiliency Program for Palliative Care Clinicians, a program targeted to decrease stress and increase resiliency, in a multidisciplinary cohort of PCCs (N = 16) at a major academic medical center.

Methods: A physician delivered the intervention over two months in five sessions (12 hours total). Data were collected the week before the program start and two months after completion. The main outcome was feasibility of the program. Changes in perceived stress, positive and negative affect, perspective taking, optimism, satisfaction with life, and self-efficacy were examined using nonparametric statistical tests. Effect size was quantified using Cohen's d.

Results: The intervention was feasible; all participants attended at least four of the five sessions, and there was no attrition. After the intervention, participants showed reductions in perceived stress and improvements in perspective taking.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that a novel team-based resiliency intervention based on elicitation of the relaxation response was feasible and may help promote resiliency and protect against the negative consequences of stress for PCCs.

Keywords: Palliative care providers; group intervention; health care provider wellness; mind-body therapies; relaxation response; resiliency; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / methods
  • Adult
  • Awareness
  • Cohort Studies
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Relaxation Therapy / methods*
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control