Practicing Mindfulness Brings Busy Physicians Back to ‘Now’
Mindfulness- the practice of being attentive to and accepting of experiences in the present moment. Mindfulness is recognized as a way to mitigate stress, increase self-awareness and well-being, and promote more meaningful relationships. For physicians, it is a powerful tool for increasing resilience in the face of stress and countering burnout.
Fast-paced, multitasking environments such as healthcare settings, tend to activate automatic pilot – not an awareness of the present moment. Our training as physicians often demands that we ignore our own well-being to meet the demands of caregiving. These are the conditions for becoming overextended, emotionally exhausted, and/or disconnected from one’s inner experiences—burnout.
One notable study published in JAMA (September 23, 2009) looked at the effects of an eight-week “mindful communication” course for primary care physicians at the University of Rochester followed by monthly follow-up sessions for 10 months. The study found that mindfulness training resulted in reductions in all scales of burnout, an increase in empathy, improved sensitivity to patients’ psychosocial history, better mood, and increased conscientiousness and emotional stability. A follow up qualitative study in Academic Medicine (June 2012) identified three salient themes in interviews of the physicians who completed the mindfulness training:
>Physicians valued sharing personal experiences with colleagues and reported reduced professional isolation.
>Physicians reported being able to listen more deeply, be present with patients’ suffering, and have more adaptive reserve.
>Physicians developed greater self-awareness and felt the course was transformative, yet struggled to give themselves permission to attend to their personal growth.
Choose a routine activity at work and practice pausing and taking deep, conscious breaths before the daily activity. Also, practice briefly reflecting on the meaning or intention of your work. Here are some examples:
Meeting with a patient and/or the patient’s family.
Going to a staff meeting.
Looking up a patient in the electronic medical record system.
Before checking email.
Washing hands between patients.
Eating lunch or snacking at work.
Taking a short break and walking to the bathroom or the coffee station at work.
Talking with co-workers or speaking with trainees.
Use reminders for mindfulness practice. For instance, you can have a framed picture or a word (even simply “Breathe”) in your office or in the patient waiting area that serves as your “mindfulness reminder.” Consider also putting similar mindfulness reminders in your electronic calendar.
Read the full article at psychnews (source)