Interventions to foster resilience in nursing staff: A systematic review and meta-analyses of pre-pandemic evidence

Angela M. Kunzler, Andrea Chmitorz, Nikolaus Röthke, Marlene Staginnus, Sarah K. Schäfer, Jutta Stoffers-Winterling, Klaus Lieb

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Given the chronic work-related stressors experienced by nursing staff in today's healthcare systems, international evidence suggests an elevated risk of developing stress-related mental symptoms. Therefore, identifying effective methods to foster resilience (i.e., maintenance or fast recovery of mental health despite stressor exposure) seems crucial. To date, little is known about the efficacy of these interventions in nurses. Objective: This systematic review aimed at summarizing the evidence on the pre-pandemic efficacy of psychological interventions to foster resilience, to improve mental symptoms and well-being as well as to promote resilience factors in nurses. Based on training programs with evidence for positive effects on resilience and mental health in meta-analyses, we aimed at identifying important and helpful intervention techniques. Design: Systematic review and meta-analyses based on a Cochrane review on pre-pandemic resilience interventions in healthcare professionals. Data sources: MEDLINE, Embase, CENTRAL and 11 other databases were searched until June 2020 to identify eligible randomized controlled trials. Trial registers, reference lists and contact with authors were additional sources. Review methods: Two reviewers independently assessed study eligibility and extracted data. The Cochrane risk of bias assessment tool was used to evaluate the risk of bias of included studies. We conducted random-effects pairwise meta-analyses for five primary outcomes, including resilience. The intervention contents and techniques were narratively synthesized. Results: Of 39,794 records retrieved, 24 studies were included in the review (N = 1879 randomized participants), 17 in meta-analyses (n = 1020 participants). At post-intervention, we found very-low certainty evidence of moderate effects in favor of resilience training for resilience (standardized mean difference [SMD] 0.39; 95% CI [confidence interval] 0.12–0.66) and well-being (SMD 0.44; 95% CI 0.15–0.72), while there was no evidence of effects on symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. The improvement of well-being was sustained in the short-term (≤ 3 months), with additional delayed benefits for anxiety and stress. There was no evidence of effects at later follow-ups, with the caveat of only three available studies. Among nine programs with evidence of positive moderate effect sizes, intervention contents included mindfulness and relaxation, psychoeducation, emotion regulation, cognitive strategies, problem-solving and the strengthening of internal and external resources. Conclusions: Given the chronic stressor exposure in nursing staff, our findings may guide both the design and implementation of nurse-directed resilience interventions. To improve the certainty of evidence, more rigorous high-quality research using improved study designs (e.g., larger sample sizes, longer follow-up periods) is urgently needed. Registration: PROSPERO 2017 CRD42017082827.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104312
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Early online date16 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022


  • Mental health
  • Meta-analysis
  • Nursing staff
  • Resilience
  • Resilience training
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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