A recent study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine explored the perceptions and experiences of emergency room nursing personnel who received tactile massage and hypnosis at a large university hospital in Sweden. Nurses working in many environments often experience chronic stress as a result of physically and emotionally exhausting work, constant interruptions, the stress of working with severely ill or dying patients, work-related conflicts among personnel, and the exposure to acute traumas and disease. Newly qualified or inexperienced nurses may be particularly vulnerable as they may not have the knowledge, skills, and support systems necessary to cope with the stress of an emergency room environment.

Stress can have a detrimental effect on the nurse’s work performance and health. The study stated that long term stress may lead to physical illness, relationship issues (both personal and work-related), increased sick leave, or personnel leaving the work place entirely.

Health promotion activities can help with work-related stress. In the Swedish hospital system cited in this study, health promotion activities included physical exercise classes, gym activities, biking, smoking cessation classes, weight loss courses, choir singing, yoga, and meditation. An integrative care unit was also designed for the nursing personnel in 2004.

This study found that when complementary therapies (CTs), specifically tactile massage and hypnosis, were integrated into other health promotion options, including physical activities, levels of pain and stress were reduced in nursing personnel. These CTs were the topic of recent public interest, had been used in recent years for many reasons, and were known to alleviate the effects of stress.

The CTs included massage therapy (tactile massage) that was used on the back, hands, and feet using a neutral vegetable oil. A form of soft tissue massage, developed by a Swedish nurse, was utilized for this research. The hypnotherapy sessions took place in a quiet room with the participant sitting in a comfortable chair. The sessions involved hypnotic induction, trance-deepening instructions, imagery therapy, and hypnotic suggestions to produce overall physical relaxation.

The study was conducted with 57 participants (nurses and assistants) working in a short term emergency department in a large Swedish university hospital. Sixteen participants also shared their experiences in a focus group discussion. The interventions were delivered once a week for a maximum number of eight 45-minute sessions. As a result of their participation in the study, the participants reported the following perceptions:

  • feeling more relaxed and more content
  • having more energy and work ability
  • experiencing an increased ability to deal with their workload
  • feeling of increased well-being and tranquility
  • feeling cared for
  • experiencing an increase in self-awareness and self-control
  • feeling less pain and tension
  • experiencing an increased ability to provide positive care to patients
  • experiencing improved colleague relationships

The participants stated these techniques “worked” at different levels as opposed to other physical activities and allowed their minds to rest.

This study suggests that nursing personnel experiencing high levels of work-related stress may benefit from health promotion strategies, such as tactile massage and hypnosis.

Source:  Airosa, F., Andersson, S. K., Falkenberg, T., Forsberg, C., Nordby-Hörnell, E., Öhlén, G., & Syndbertm T, (2011). Tactile massage and hypnotherapy as a health promotion for nurses in emergency care—A qualitative study. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 11(83), 83.