Coping with the Stress in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit: Can Mindfulness Be the Answer?

Nadya Golfenshtein, Janet A. Deatrick, Amy J. Lisanti, Barbara Medoff-Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Mothers of infants with complex congenital heart disease are exposed to increased stress which has been associated with numerous adverse health outcomes. The coping mechanisms these mothers use critically effect the familial illness adaptation and most likely infant outcomes. Currently no data-based strategies have been developed for mothers to facilitate their coping, and proactively promote their adaptation in the critical care settings. A potential strategy is mindfulness which is currently used in other clinical settings with stress-reduction effects. Purpose (1) To investigate coping mechanisms of mothers whose infant with complex CHD is admitted in the CICU, and (2) to explore the acceptability and feasibility of mindfulness as a potential stress-reduction intervention for these mothers. Design and Methods A descriptive qualitative study obtained perspectives from 14 mothers during three focus groups. A qualitative conventional content analysis was performed using ATLAS.ti. Results In congruence with the Stress and Coping framework, themes identified mostly emotion-regulatory coping mechanisms including both active and passive strategies such as positive thinking, denial, distraction, relying on support systems, and focusing on baby. Mindfulness was an acceptable and feasible approach for most participants, however, practice unfamiliarity, time and space concerns, and personal preferences were identified as potential barriers for future dissemination. Conclusions Mindfulness can potentially promote illness adaptation by utilization of active coping mechanisms. Early interventions can provide immediate, and potentially long-term stress relief. Intervention settings, format, and time-frame should be flexibly tailored to the trajectory of parental distress and familial adjustment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pediatric Nursing
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.


  • Congenital heart disease
  • Coping
  • Emotion regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Parental stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics


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