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Accepted Paper:

Training presence among the dying  
Hanne Bess Boelsbjerg (Interacting Minds Centre)

Paper short abstract:

Hospice care workers are exposed to extended periods of suffering during patients’ dying process. To prevent the experience of compassion fatigue four hospices participated in a research project that evaluated how mindfulness and compassion training enabled them to stay present among the dying.

Paper long abstract:

Hospice care workers are at risk for developing compassion fatigue due to numerous emotional demands and recurrent exposure to death and dying. Research shows that these stressors can reduce the capacity for caring for patients and relatives, thereby compromise the quality of care.

An intervention, that might prevent compassion fatigue, was offered to four Danish hospices. It consisted of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and compassion training adjusted to hospice workers. At the core of this training lies an assumption that presence can be enhanced through different techniques.

Based on a mixed method design, the study consisted of questionnaires on stress, resilience and work ability, supplemented with in-depth interviews, focus group interviews and participant observation. 20 participants were interviewed twice before and half way through the MBSR and compassion training. The in-depth interviews were supplied with 8 focus group interviews including 38 participants and conducted after finalising the training.

In their evaluation, the hospice care workers described how they discovered new ways to stay present. They stressed the importance of paying attention to bodily sensations, like tensions or relaxed body parts to notice their own reactions to a situation. They also spoke of becoming aware of their own breathing and thereby presentifying themselves. By training presence through techniques that enhance sensorial awareness, the hospice care workers learned to anchor themselves in their bodily being. This raises the discussion, not only on the understanding of presence as an embodied practice, but also whether being present is something that can be learned.

Panel P111a
Being there - but how? On the transformation of presences I
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -