A Pilot Feasibility Evaluation of a Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback App to Improve Self-Care in COVID-19 Healthcare Workers.

Publication date: Mar 19, 2024

COVID-19 exacerbated burnout and mental health concerns among the healthcare workforce. Due to high work stress, demanding schedules made attuned eating behaviors a particularly challenging aspect of self-care for healthcare workers. This study aimed to examine the feasibility and acceptability of a heart rate variability biofeedback (HRVB) mobile app for improving well-being among healthcare workers reporting elevated disordered eating during COVID-19. We conducted a mixed methods pre-mid-post single-arm pilot feasibility trial (ClinicalTrials. gov NCT04921228). Deductive content analysis of participants’ commentary generated qualitative themes. Linear mixed models were used to examine changes in pre- mid- to post-assessment scores on well-being outcomes. We consented 28 healthcare workers (25/89% female; 23/82% Non-Hispanic White; 22/79% nurses) to use and evaluate an HRVB mobile app. Of these, 25/89% fully enrolled by attending the app and device training; 23/82% were engaged in all elements of the protocol. Thirteen (52%) completed at least 10 min of HRVB on two-thirds or more study days. Most participants (18/75%) reported being likely or extremely likely to continue HRVB. Common barriers to engagement were busy schedules, fatigue, and technology difficulties. However, participants felt that HRVB helped them relax and connect better to their body’s signals and experiences. Results suggested preliminary evidence of efficacy for improving interoceptive sensibility, mindful self-care, body appreciation, intuitive eating, stress, resilience, and disordered eating. HRVB has potential as a low-cost adjunct tool for enhancing well-being in healthcare workers through positively connecting to the body, especially during times of increased stress when attuned eating behavior becomes difficult to uphold.

Concepts Keywords
Biofeedback Disordered eating
Eating Eating behavior
Hispanic Healthcare workers
Nurses Interoception
Pilot Mind–body health


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19
disease MESH burnout
disease VO device
disease VO protocol
drug DRUGBANK Tropicamide

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