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Mindfulness training helps patients cope

Emory Nursing | Dec. 19, 2011

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Susan Bauer-Wu's (left) studies involve nurses at Winship Cancer Institute, including nurse practitioners Jessica Thomas 06N 10MN (center) and Kate Carlson Wrammert.

Cancer patients often endure pain, fatigue, and uncomfortable medical treatments while living with an overwhelming sense of uncertainty and fear.

“A lot of times, they feel their bodies have betrayed them,” says Susan Bauer-Wu PHD RN FAAN, a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar in the School of Nursing. “I try to help cancer patients befriend their bodies again and foster a sense of acceptance and peace of mind with whatever is happening.”

Bauer-Wu has devoted much of her career to researching how psycho-behavioral interventions, such as music and writing, affect cancer patients’ symptoms and treatment experience. At Emory, she has concentrated on a tool for connecting the mind and body that’s been around for thousands of years: meditation.

In a recent clinical trial, funded in part with $500,000 from the Georgia Cancer Coalition along with a major grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research, Bauer-Wu sought to determine whether mindfulness meditation affects the well-being of cancer patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplant. For many patients, she found that it does.

These patients experience major anxiety, in no small part because they are stuck in a hospital for about three weeks and are worried about relapse of their disease in the future.

Health care professionals (primarily nurses) trained in mindfulness meditation visited the patients in their hospital rooms twice a week. The patients also received a CD on guided meditation to listen to in the hospital and when they went home. This program helped cancer patients learn how to meditate and bring mindfulness and self-compassion into their everyday lives.

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