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A first of its kind, community-based care research effort has found that New York Zen Center’s Contemplative Care yielded pivotal benefits for staff and residents at a nursing home.

“Research is critical,”

…says Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison, co-founder of the New York Zen Center of Contemplative Care. “We need to know how contemplative care is measurable, impactful and good medicine. The Zen Center is a steward of innovating how we care for those who care and who they care for.”


For more than a decade, the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care (NYZC) has honed a model of care grounded in Zen Buddhism that is relationship-centered and community-based. In 2018, the LTSS Center at UMass Boston was commissioned to conduct third-party research to measure the impact of a contemplative approach to care for both staff and residents at a geriatric residential facility in Upper Manhattan. 


the value for caregivers

“This type of research is valuable to caregivers because it demonstrates that participation in the program leads to demonstrable positive results,” says Natasha Bryant managing director of the Washington, DC, office of the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston. “Benefits to staff included a greater sense of meaning for the work staff was doing, a stronger sense of community and team, and the perception that staff can make a difference.”


“They also felt that the Contemplative Resilience Method taught staff strategies and practices to help them Manage stress, increase resilience, improve communication with and approach to caring for residents,” she adds.

Bryant noted that positive changes for nursing home residents included: greater odds of pain-management improvement; lower odds of worsening behavior; greater odds of having lower pain levels affecting a resident’s ability to function, and; greater odds of having a lower pain-intensity score.

“It became clearer that the work that we do has influence not just on the person receiving care, but is also a model that significantly influences the culture of care on a floor,” says Doshin Ende, Co-Director of NYZC Contemplative Care Training. “A strong sense of community developed and staff demonstrated a renewed investment in their approach to work.”

research details and findings

The research effort was presented to nursing staff through Contemplative Resilience Method training (CRM); it was implemented for one year from September 2018 to August 2019. In the study, the research team assessed NYZC’s contemplative care impact on nursing home residents and nursing home staff who received the intervention, compared to those who did not receive the intervention. The Zen Center’s Contemplative Care Team engaged with residents on the intervention floors for about 70 hours a week and held CRM group sessions with staff. CRM sessions were held 4 times a week to accommodate staff scheduling.

“For many staff contemplative practice was a new experience and they responded with enthusiasm and an understanding that it has a place in their work and personal life,” says Sensei Chodo Robert Campbell, co-founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care. “It was heartwarming to hear staff remind one another in stressful moments to “breathe in, breathe out,”— an often used instruction in Zen Practice.”


Even though this was a small, preliminary study, the findings should provide a level of confidence to those considering implementing such a program. “The research highlighted for me that the program has important benefits in particular to those caring for vulnerable and very impaired older adults,” says co-researcher Marc A. Cohen, PhD
Co-Director of the LeadingAge LTSS Center at UMass Boston.

Staff who participated in the pre- and post-intervention surveys and focus groups included certified nursing assistants, nurses, dietitians, therapeutic recreational therapists, social workers, and environmental services professionals. Benefits to staff included:


  • Positive perceptions of the supervisor.
  • Feeling part of the team.
  • Enhanced relationship with co-workers.
  • New capacity to resolve issues among co-workers.
  • A greater sense of meaning for the work staff was doing, a stronger sense of community, and the perception that staff can make a difference.
  • Higher level of resilience.


The majority of staff who participated in CRM reported that they were very satisfied with the training and that they used the practices they had learned—such as pausing, identifying values and emotions, reflection and response, generous listening, intentional speech, and contemplative practice—to manage routine stress and communicate more effectively.

Researchers interviewed all residents of the intervention and control floors to assess whether the contemplative care intervention improved resident quality of care. These surveys and MDS data suggested several positive changes in 4 quality indicators for residents of the intervention floors:


  • Greater odds of pain-management improvement.
  • Lower odds of worsening behavior.
  • Greater odds of having lower pain levels affecting a resident’s ability to function.
  • Greater odds of having a lower pain-intensity score.


 The full report of the study can be found here

Reflections from nursing home staff

We are grateful for the support

We are grateful for the generous funding and support for this research provided by the Hemera Foundation and The Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation Inc.


To learn more about donating to the New York Zen Center of Contemplative Care please visit our donations homepage.


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