As a physician, you may find it hard to manage patients along with your own health. Being mindful not only helps reduce the risk of burnout, but also provide better care to your patients. You might be thinking you don’t have time to change your ways because you have to get to all of your patients, but physician mindfulness will greatly improve your work.
Founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as:
“Awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness does not have to be a complicated practice, and it does not have to take time away from other things. Throughout your daily routine, make an effort to notice new things in your present situation. Mindfulness is living in the moment and taking in the experience, not rushing through it.
Effects on Physicians
Physician mindfulness is becoming a popular practice to decrease burnout. Many physicians are constantly thinking about their future to-do lists for the day instead of using their mental energy to connect with patients. It is also important to practice mindfulness between patients in order to reset and provide high-quality care.
In one study, researchers assessed the baseline mindfulness of 45 clinicians and found different patterns between those who displayed a higher level of mindfulness from those with a lower level. Increased mindfulness led to more upbeat patient interactions, more focus on the conversation, and more attempts to strengthen the relationship or show empathy toward patient feelings. On the other hand, less mindful clinicians missed opportunities to be empathetic and did not pay attention to patients at all.
Practicing mindfulness between patients can help clear your mind from what happened in your last appointment and allow you to be completely present in your next. It can be easy for physicians to neglect their own self-care due to the high volume of patients that need care. Rushing from patient to patient might be effective in the sense of time, but is it really helping anyone?
Physician mindfulness can have a huge impact on your quality of care as well as your own well-being. Letting your mind be in one place at one time can dramatically reduce stress, burnout, and overwhelming feelings.
Effects on Patients
If you are a physician that still seems to neglect your own health to treat your patient’s, know that it really isn’t helping them. You can physically be there at the appointment treating your patient, but are you mentally there? Physician mindfulness will improve the care you provide, your relationship with the patient, and overall patient satisfaction.
In the study discussed above, a conversation between a less-mindful clinician and patient was recorded. The patient disclosed that he had woken in the middle of the night crying in pain, in which the clinician responded with a question about a flu shot.
If you don’t pay full attention to your patient, they will be reluctant to ask questions about their situation. In turn, this can be harmful if they don’t get proper treatment. In the worst-case scenario, they might decide to pursue a new doctor. Physician mindfulness allows doctors to listen more, talk less, and be more attentive to patient needs.
Increasing Physician Mindfulness
There are many simple ways to increase physician mindfulness. You can make the effort to integrate the practices into your daily routines or attend presentations and workshops on mindfulness. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Seek out and notice new things. your patient’s body language, the way they answer questions and speak to you, and finding out what they need.
- Recognize different perceptions of your behavior. The way you interact with patients may seem normal to you, but think about how they might perceive it.
- Take a minute to reset. Don’t rush from patient to patient just to get there. Take a minute to breathe and make sure you’re ready to be attentive to your next patient.