September 23, 2009
Science Daily/University of Rochester Medical Center
Training in mindfulness meditation and communication can alleviate the psychological distress and burnout experienced by many physicians and can improve their well-being, researchers report.
The training also can expand a physician's capacity to relate to patients and enhance patient-centered care, according to the researchers, who were led by Michael S. Krasner, M.D., associate professor of Clinical Medicine.
"From the patient's perspective, we hear all too often of dissatisfaction in the quality of presence from their physician. From the practitioner's perspective, the opportunity for deeper connection is all too often missed in the stressful, complex, and chaotic reality of medical practice," Krasner said. "Enhancing the already inherent capacity of the physician to experience fully the clinical encounter—not only its pleasant but also its most unpleasant aspects—without judgment but with a sense of curiosity and adventure seems to have had a profound effect on the experience of stress and burnout. It also seems to enhance the physician's ability to connect with the patient as a unique human being and to center care around that uniqueness.
"Cultivating these qualities of mindful communication with colleagues, anectodotally, had an unexpected benefit of combating the practitioners' sense of isolation and brought forth the very experiences that are such a rich source of meaning in the life of the clinician," he said.
"The most salient element was the collegial effect of weathered physicians reflecting on mutual experience using a theme-based approach in a safe environment," Chamberlain said. "It is a unique opportunity to return to our roots as physicians, exploring in a workshop format abstract yet key emotionally charged or difficult issues that many of us had not visited so academically since medical school. Perception of the impact and approach to those issues is quite different once tempered by experience, particularly in a program that emphasizes awareness of the moment. It is a singular opportunity to do-over some of our medical school experience, and get much more out of it than the first time, as one reflects on how others in the group have grappled with and addressed the complex experiences of being a physician whose life touches and is touched by others constantly. The program is all about the experience of being a physician. Not what to do, or how to do it, but what it feels like. That is unique, and quite refreshing."