US Doctors Are Turning to Mindfulness to Help Heal Healthcare

Record levels of medical professionals are reporting symptoms of burnout and emotional exhaustion. Mindfulness can help.

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When we or our family members fall ill, we rely on caring doctors, nurses, EMTs and other caregivers to help us through tough times. But at this moment, these caregivers need our help.

Today, record levels of medical professionals report symptoms of burnout and emotional exhaustion—up to 78 percent of physicians, according to a 2018 survey. At the beginning of this year, the Harvard School of Public Health along with other eminent health organizations declared physician burnout a “public health crisis.”

It’s time to heal the healers.

Starting on Thursday, Mindful has partnered with The Awake Network to create the Mindful Healthcare Summit, a free online event  to look at how mindfulness and compassion practices can be applied to relieve caregiver burnout and improve patient care. Leading experts, researchers and healthcare leaders already applying mindfulness will offer practical, evidence-based tools to tens of thousands of medical professionals from around the world.

“This collaboration is incredibly exciting for us,” says Barry Boyce, Editor-in-Chief at Mindful. “We founded Mindful with the mission to help build a more compassionate, caring society, and now we are able to provide these resources to help medical professionals who play such a vital role in our communities.”

Ron Epstein, MD, author of Attending: Mindfulness, Medicine and Humanity and one of the featured speakers in the summit, writes “The magnitude of the problem is staggering. Burnout — emotional exhaustion, often accompanied by cynicism and feeling ineffective — affects more than half of practicing physicians and is on the rise…[I]t compromises not only physicians’ own health and happiness; it also leads to unsafe prescribing practices, overuse of diagnostic tests, compromised patient safety and poor communication with patients and colleagues.”

Mindfulness and compassion practices, while by no means a silver bullet, have proven to be one approach that can help reduce burnout among caregivers and improve patient care.

Mindfulness and compassion practices, while by no means a silver bullet, have proven to be one approach that can help reduce burnout among caregivers and improve patient care.

In 2009, a study of 70 healthcare professionals found that participants were less likely to experience signs of burnout and reported greater sense of personal accomplishment and empathy after participating in a mindfulness training program.

“Mindfulness enables doctors to listen to a patient without judging,” Epstein explains, “to be present, responding to what the patient is saying and feeling and also aware of what they’re feeling.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn, pioneer of mindfulness in medicine and another featured speaker at the summit, says, “Some of the medical science of mindfulness …is showing us some phenomenal things that we have never known before about the brain… about how something that looks like doing nothing from the outside, but which is really cultivating being or non-doing, can actually transform our biology in ways that tilt the system in the direction of health and wellbeing.”

If you know anyone who might benefit from this free event, please share it with them. Help those who have dedicated their lives to helping others.  

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