Focus On: Physician Burnout

Focus On: Physician Burnout

March 19, 2019
2 min read

Mindfulness training improves well-being, resiliency in medical students

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After receiving 8 weeks of mindfulness training, U.K. medical students reported improved empathy, which gave them a better sense of control and resiliency and a better way to manage their workload, according to qualitative research findings.

“The integration of mindfulness in medical training has been related to fostering reflective practice and professionalism as well improving psychological wellbeing and preventing burnout,” Alice Malpass, PhD, research fellow at University of Bristol Medical School, U.K., and colleagues wrote. “In the U.K., there has been no exploration of how mindfulness training is being implemented and with what impact, despite the recent [General Medical Council] recommendations for mindfulness to form one strategy in supporting students’ mental health.”

The researchers examined whether mindfulness could improve mental health and well-being in 57 medical students who participated in an 8-week mindfulness training program.

Participants learned about the impact of stress, stress triggers, signs of stress, coping techniques, meditation practice and the importance of self-care, according to a press release. They attended training for 2 hours each week and practiced mindfulness for 30 minutes each day at home between sessions. At the end of the course, participants completed a short survey with open-ended responses. The investigators also conducted six qualitative, 60- to 90-minute interviews with the students.

Based on their responses, medical students reported a new understanding of their thoughts and feelings, which enabled them to feel more in control and resilient, to manage their workload better and accept their limitations. They also reported learning awareness of stress triggers and early warning signs of stress, according to the findings.

Medical students also saw improvements in empathy and communication skills by becoming more aware of their thoughts and feelings, noticing judgmental thoughts and becoming more attentive. Some students nurtured their empathy by noticing their reaction to patients, and others reported that mindfulness training was important to their development as clinicians, according to the study.

Mindfulness also helped participants achieve a sense of work balance and flexibility, regain concentration during the day, unwind after work and improve self-acceptance, the results showed.

Malpass and colleagues credited the small group context of the mindfulness training for these observed changes in well-being, resiliency and outlook.

“Our research offers the first piece of qualitative work exploring medical student’s experiences of an 8-week training on mindfulness in a U.K. setting,” the researchers wrote. “The findings show that mindfulness training positively influences the way students approach and reflect on their well-being and education within the medical education context.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.