The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation (TM2017-04)
National Health and Medical Research Council, Centre for Research Excellence
Introspect addresses the multitude of complex, personal mental health challenges nurses face due to the nature of their profession. The digital, audio-based self-care intervention assists nurses in employing positive coping mechanisms to improve their ability to manage distress—allowing them to continuously deliver high-quality care to all of their patients.
Recent studies report 65.1% of nurses have experienced mental health-related symptoms in the last 12 months, often stemming from deeply systematic and environmental causes (Perry et al., 2015; Austin, et al., 2009). Supporting wellbeing for nurses must be considerate of the unique and specific challenges of this demographic: physical exhaustion, a lack of time, distrust in their colleagues, a build-up of negative emotions, an unwillingness to be vulnerable, and feeling isolated by their distress. Thus, designing for the unique individuality of each nurse while simultaneously supporting openness and encouraging catharsis, can improve their ability to manage personal and emotional challenges.
Introspect is a self-care application utilising an intuitive, artificially-intelligent system that encourages nurses to consider their current emotional state. It exceeds the brief by: (1) employing a self-conversation—via modulated recordings of self-reflections—to promote empathy, as well as the emotional, informational, and social support traditionally found in others; (2) featuring an ambiguous, non-human guide to remove connotations of judgement, and foster trust, honesty and support vulnerability when discussing emotional distress; and (3) leveraging clinical vocalisation and reflection techniques in the conversation model to enable a sense of catharsis and closure from emotional distress that might otherwise be bottled up.
Introspect’s impact is twofold. First, it equips nurses with the self-belief and self-efficacy to positively influence their mental wellbeing. Introspect instills strategies for coping, a sense of self-drive to recover and the ability to self-improve. Second, the betterment of nurse’s wellbeing carries through to their patients. Promoting accessible and effective wellbeing techniques enables nurses to continue delivering high-quality care to their patients in spite of emotional distress. While Introspect was designed for nurses, we do not preclude its use from others. Introspect seeks to better the mental wellbeing of the broader healthcare sector and those it supports.
Introspect facilitates effective coping strategies through three key features: (i) a conversation model, (ii) voice modulation system, and (iii) a non-human guide.
Nurses are guided through their interactions with Introspect via a series of neutral, yet firm cues that prompt them to vocalise and reflect on their experiences from the day. Introspect makes use of instructions and supplementary questions, allowing nurses to share their feelings in a safe environment, before listening back to a recording of what they shared. The artificially intelligent system utilises language processing to formulate natural and conversational responses, ensuring that nurses feel comfortable.
Introspect contains an embedded, audio-modulation system which lowers the pitch of the user’s recorded voice by two semi-tones without distorting either the length or speed of the audio. The technique serves to distance nurses from distress and urges them to view their experiences from the perspective of a friend, and reflect with compassion. To the best of our knowledge, Introspect is the only Australian design utilising reflection and vocalisation techniques, as well as voice modulation within the context of self-distancing and mental wellbeing.
Introspect exemplifies the opportune contribution that design can make to the complex areas of wellbeing, healthcare, and other sociotechnical systems.