Training Physicians in Mindfulness Meditation

Can mindfulness meditation help to improve patient care?

So many people complain about the bedside manner of their doctors. They feel they are unsympathetic, they don't listen, and they are arrogant. Some even go so far as to say they don't look them in the eye and don't give them enough information about their illness and the treatment. A lot of this, I feel, is due to the way they are trained. It is almost as if they are taught to believe so much in themselves, probably to build confidence, that they lose sight of the patients they are there to help and treat. That is not to say that all doctors are like this but these traits are prevalent in many physicians.

A recent study  involving  70 physicians from the Rochester, N.Y., area, involved eight intensive weekly sessions that were 2 ½ hours long, an all-day session and a maintenance phase of 10 monthly 2 ½-hour sessions.

A new study reports that training physicians in mindfulness meditation and communication skills can improve the quality of care.

After the training, University of Rochester Medical Center researchers found that both primary care practitioners and their patients report that they believed care was improved. The findings are published online in the journal Academic Medicine.

Considering our lives are in the hands of medical practitioners it is vital that they develop the skills required to be attentive listeners and  to understand the deeper needs of their patients. So much is talked about a holistic approach and treating body, mind and spirit, but all to often our treatment  may be solely upon the one part of the body, that which is diseased.

For physicians and doctors to learn to firstly be aware of themselves and their own needs and in turn to be aware of the needs of their patients would be a huge step forward. Mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to develop this ability as the study discovered.

The findings of the study were very interesting:-

  • For 75 percent of the physicians, sharing personal experiences from medical practice with colleagues was one of the most meaningful outcomes of the program;
  • A nonjudgmental atmosphere helped participants feel emotionally safe enough to pause, reflect, and disclose their complex and profound experiences, which, in turn, provided reassurance that they were not alone in their feelings;
  • Sixty percent reported that learning mindfulness skills improved their capacity to listen more attentively and respond more effectively to others at work and home;
  • More than half of the participants acknowledged having increased self-awareness and better ability to respond non-judgmentally during personal or professional conversations;
  • Seventy percent placed a high value on the mindfulness course having an organized, structured, and well-defined curriculum that designated time and space to pause and reflect—not something they would ordinarily consider permissible;
  • Participants also described the personal struggles they have with devoting time and energy toward self-care despite acknowledging its importance.

You can read more about the study at Psych Central

The researchers who conducted the study into the effects of mindfulness meditation on physicians and the care they give to their patients has been so positive that they are now planning to incorporate it into the curricula of medical students at the University of Rochester

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