Exposure to nature has shown a vast array of health benefits including reduced stress. Burnout in health care workers caused from repeated stress over time is a recognized concern, estimated to affect more than half of practicing physicians nationwide. Stress and burnout may lead to medical errors and cost hundreds of millions of dollars annually due to turnover, reduced clinician hours, and early retirement. Yet little is known regarding practical interventions to prevent and reduce physician burnout.
The purpose of this Validation of fMRI Images study was to ensure that the visual stimuli depicted the intended concepts of nature, urban, and empathy. Funding was provided by The Center for Health & Nature and the Physician & Provider Engagement Resilience Task Force to validate and select images to best represent three concepts that may affect burnout: nature, urban, and pain/empathy.
This study was a first step in examining nature’s effect on empathy-related stress to begin to understand the potential restorative effect nature may have on burned out individuals. Led by Principal Investigator Terri Menser, PhD, MBA, the study team recruited a convenience sample of 40 students from Texas A&M University. They were presented with images from each of the three categories and asked to rate the degree to which each image accurately represents each respective concept.