Mindful Doctors are Better Doctors
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness enables doctors to listen to a patient without judging, to be present, responding to what the patient is saying and feeling and also aware of what they’re feeling.”- Ron Epstein
Stress is epidemic in the western workplace with almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. In high stress occupations, like healthcare, burnout is all too prevalent. Burnout is the fatigue, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, sleep disruption, and professional inefficacy that comes with work-related stress. It is estimated that over 45% of healthcare workers experience burnout. It not only affects the healthcare providers personally, but also the patients, as it produces a loss of empathy and compassion. Burnout, in fact, it is a threat to the entire healthcare system. Currently, over a third of healthcare workers report that they are looking for a new job. Hence, burnout contributes to the shortage of doctors and nurses.
Preventing burnout has to be a priority. Unfortunately, it is beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress and prevent burnout. So, it is important that methods be found to reduce the individual’s responses to stress; to make the individual more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve well-being. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnout, increasing resilience, and improving sleep. Thus there is a need to investigate how mindfulness effects doctors’ well-being and the well-being of their patients.
In today’s Research News article “). Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Doctors’ Mindfulness, Patient Safety Culture, Patient Safety Competency and Adverse Event.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8954148/ ) Liu and colleagues recruited doctors from hospitals and randomly assigned them to receive either 8-weekly 90-minute sessions of mindfulness meditation along with home practice or to a no-treatment control condition. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, patient safety competency, hospital safety culture, and adverse medical events.
They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control doctors, the group that received mindfulness training had significantly greater levels of mindfulness, patient safety competency, and hospital safety culture and significantly lower rates or adverse medical events.
Hence mindful meditation made the doctors better at patient safety including lower rates of bad outcomes. In other words, mindful doctors are better doctors.
“Anyone whose work involves immense human suffering needs to be aware of their inner life. The nature of the work that physicians do makes [them] more vulnerable to negative emotions or making errors,” – Ron Epstein
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Liu, C., Chen, H., Cao, X., Sun, Y., Liu, C. Y., Wu, K., Liang, Y. C., Hsu, S. E., Huang, D. H., & Chiou, W. K. (2022). Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Doctors’ Mindfulness, Patient Safety Culture, Patient Safety Competency and Adverse Event. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(6), 3282. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19063282
Objective: This study investigated the effects of mindfulness meditation on doctors’ mindfulness, patient safety culture, patient safety competency, and adverse events. Methods: We recruited 91 doctors from a hospital in China and randomized them to mindfulness meditation group (n = 46) and a waiting control group (n = 45). The mindfulness meditation group underwent an 8-week mindfulness meditation intervention, while the control group underwent no intervention. We measured four main variables (mindfulness, patient safety culture, patient safety competency, and adverse event) before and after the mindfulness meditation intervention. Results: In the experimental group, mindfulness, patient safety culture and patient safety competency were significantly higher compared with those of the control group. In the control group, there were no significant differences in any of the three variables between the pre-test and post-test. Adverse events in the experimental group were significantly lower than in the control group. Conclusions: The intervention of mindfulness meditation significantly improved the level of mindfulness, patient safety culture and patient safety competency. During the mindfulness meditation intervention, the rate of adverse events in the meditation group was also significantly lower than in the control group. As a simple and effective intervention, mindfulness meditation plays a positive role in improving patient safety and has certain promotional value.