In about 2005 a trio of women who worked together using writing with breast cancer patients and survivors arrived in Denver for the Journal to the Self instructor certification training 5-day intensive. Janice Putrino was an oncology social worker in Rochester, New York who worked with an oncology nurse, Linda Sliwoski. The third, Beverly Kirkhart, was a writer, breast cancer survivor and advocate living in California who had published My Healing Companion, a journal for those with cancer, which Janice used in her writing groups at Gilda’s Club.
Years passed. Janice became the first graduate of the Therapeutic Writing Institute and was core faculty for TWI for several years before returning to full-time social work. Beverly became a major motivational speaker and best-selling author for the cancer community. Linda became an oncology nurse manager and part of a research team that studied the impact of journal writing for increasing compassion satisfaction (CS) and reducing burnout (BO) and compassion fatigue (CF) among registered nurses. Their original research was just published in the Journal for Nursing Education and Practice.
The study offered six-week journal groups (2.5 hours per week) facilitated by Linda to volunteer nurses. The group facilitation plans were drawn from my book The Write Way to Wellness, which each participant received. Sixty-six nurses completed all phases of the study through Post Test II.
Participants took the quantitative ProQOL quality of life survey before the first session and immediately after the last session, and again 60 days later. Additionally,
A descriptive qualitative method through constant-comparative analysis was utilized to understand more about the effects of journaling through responses participants gave to the open-ended questions of the Post II-survey. The purpose of descriptive qualitative research is to describe experiences as they are lived. In this instance, a qualitative descriptive approach allowed for deeper understanding of the nurses’ experience with journaling. (p. 93)
The quantitative results (ProQOL R-IV to measure CS, BO, CF):
- Journaling was statistically significant in increasing compassion satisfaction.
- Journaling was statistically significant in reducing burnout.
- Journaling was statistically significant in reducing trauma/compassion fatigue. (p. 94)
Analysis of the qualitative questions about the role of journaling revealed three themes:
- “Journaling allowed me to unleash my innermost feelings”
- “Journaling helped me to articulate and understand my feelings concretely”
- “Journaling helped me make more reasonable decisions” (p. 94)
The study concludes,
Journaling is an important tool for registered nurses…. The results indicate that journaling does have a positive effect over time on the ability of nurses to handle stress and [compassion fatigue] resulting from the work in their professions.
Many thanks to colleague Linda Sliwoski, MSN, RN, Certified Journaling Instructor, Nurse Care Manager, Rochester Independent Practices Association, Rochester NY for her dedication to the field and for facilitating the group work of this important original research. May it become a benchmark study for many to follow.
Study: Dimitroff, L., Sliwoski L., O’Brien, S. and Nichols, L. Change your life through journaling–The benefits of journaling for registered nurses. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice. 2017, 7:2, 90-98.
Click below for a PDF of the study.
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