These and other sources indicate that physicians report high levels of distress, which is linked to burnout, attrition, and poorer quality of care. Several studies show that mindfulness interventions have been helpful in dealing with these problems. Article #1, a review of studies on MBSR, reports: “Empirical evidence indicates that participation in MBSR yields benefits for clinicians in the domains of physical and mental health.”
Although much of the research on mindfulness interventions focuses on the 8-week MBSR class, a pilot study, #7, states that “an abbreviated mindfulness training course adapted for primary care clinicians was associated with reductions in indicators of job burnout, depression, anxiety, and stress.”
Krasner et al, Article #2, studied primary care physicians who took the 8-week MBSR class + a 10-month maintenance phase of 2.5 hours/month.
The authors reported, 9 months’ post-intervention, “increased mindfulness and less burnout (less emotional exhaustion and greater personal accomplishment, greater empathy, conscientiousness, and emotional stability).” They concluded: “Participation in a mindful communication program was associated with short-term and sustained improvements in well-being and attitudes associated with patient-centered care.”
In Article #4, a study of these same primary care physicians 3 years after they participated in the course, the authors conclude: “Participants reported three main themes: (1) sharing personal experiences from medical practice with colleagues reduced professional isolation, (2) mindfulness skills improved the participants' ability to be attentive and listen deeply to patients' concerns, respond to patients more effectively, and develop adaptive reserve, and (3) developing greater self-awareness was positive and transformative, yet participants struggled to give themselves permission to attend to their own personal growth.”
Article #5 adds that not only are the physicians who’ve taken MBSR experiencing less stress and higher levels of self care, but also their participation in the course “resulted in improved patient care.” Article #6 gives greater detail about the relationship between clinicians and patients: “In adjusted analyses comparing clinicians with highest and lowest tertile mindfulness scores, patient visits with high-mindfulness clinicians were more likely to be characterized by a patient-centered pattern of communication (adjusted odds ratio of a patient-centered visit was 4.14; 95% CI, 1.58-10.86), in which both patients and clinicians engaged in more rapport building and discussion of psychosocial issues. Clinicians with high-mindfulness scores also displayed more positive emotional tone with patients (adjusted β = 1.17; 95% CI, 0.46-1.9). Patients were more likely to give high ratings on clinician communication (adjusted prevalence ratio [APR] = 1.48; 95% CI, 1.17-1.86) and to report high overall satisfaction (APR = 1.45; 95 CI, 1.15-1.84) with high-mindfulness clinicians.
Selected Articles on Mindfulness Interventions with Physicians
1. Irving JA1, Dobkin PL, Park J. (2009) Cultivating mindfulness in health care professionals: a review of empirical studies of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2009 May;15(2):61-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2009.01.002.
2. Krasner et all (2009) Association of an educational program in mindful communication with burnout, empathy, and attitudes among primary care physicians. JAMA. 2009 Sep 23;302(12):1284-93.
3. Goodman MJ1, Schorling JB. (2012) A mindfulness course decreases burnout and improves well-being among healthcare providers. Acad Med. 2012 Jun;87(6):815-9.
4. Beckman et al (2012) The impact of a program in mindful communication on primary care physicians. Acad Med. 2012 Jun;87(6):815-9.
5. Brady S1, O'Connor N, Burgermeister D, Hanson P. (2012) The impact of mindfulness meditation in promoting a culture of safety on an acute psychiatric unit., Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2012 Jul;48(3):129-37
6. Beach et al (2013) A multicenter study of physician mindfulness and health care quality. Ann Fam Med. 2013 Sep-Oct;11(5):421-8.
7. Fortney et al (2013) Abbreviated mindfulness intervention for job satisfaction, quality of life, and compassion in primary care clinicians: a pilot study. Ann Fam Med. 2013 Sep-Oct;11(5):412-20. doi: 10.1370/afm.1511.