Sensing the lightness: a narrative analysis of an integrative medicine program for healthcare providers in the COVID-19 department

Support Care Cancer. 2022 Feb;30(2):1419-1426. doi: 10.1007/s00520-021-06546-6. Epub 2021 Sep 15.


Objectives: The research addressing physical and emotional exhaustion among healthcare providers (HCPs) in COVID-19 departments is limited. We examined the impact of integrative medicine (IM) intervention for HCPs working in isolated COVID-19 in-patient departments, addressing concerns and well-being.

Methods: HCPs working in 3 isolated COVID-19 in-patient departments underwent 40-min IM treatment sessions (including acupuncture, manual movement, and/or mind-body modalities) provided by integrative oncology practitioners. The MYCAW (Measure Yourself Concerns and Well-being) questionnaire examined HCP concerns and free-text narratives following IM treatments. Data were qualitatively analyzed using ATLAS.Ti software for systematic coding.

Results: A total of 181 HCPs underwent 305 IM treatments. Narrative themes focused on physical symptoms (primarily pain and fatigue) and emotional concerns, including perceived communication barriers with patients, and reflections on well-being and insights following IM treatments. HCPs reported feeling a sense of "relief" which was likely related to the 3 main effects of the IM intervention: a sense of "being cared for" and treated; experiencing emotional, sometimes spiritual effects of the treatment; and the feeling of relaxation, combined with the relief of pain. Qualitative analysis identified clusters of emotional and spiritual-related keywords such as "calming," "release," "relaxation," and "disengagement" following the first IM session (119 of 181 narratives, 65.7%).

Conclusions: HCPs working in isolated COVID-19 departments reported improved well-being and the addressing of their concerns following IM treatment sessions provided during their work shift. Further research is needed to explore the impact of IM on HCP burnout and resilience in palliative care settings.

Keywords: Burnout; COVID-19; Integrative medicine; Narrative-based medicine; Pain; Palliative care.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Integrative Medicine*
  • Integrative Oncology*
  • SARS-CoV-2