"Physician, Heal Thyself"

New York Times Doctor and Patient – How Mindfulness Can Make for Better Doctors is not just an example of the use of meditation and mindfulness as something abstract or removed from the daily grind. Mindfulness is applied to a concrete challenge.

Last month, The Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of a study examining the effects of a year-long course for primary care physicians on mindfulness, that ability to be in the zone and present in the moment purposefully and without judgment. Seventy physicians enrolled and participated in the four components of the course — mindfulness meditation; writing sessions; discussions; and lectures on topics like managing conflict, setting boundaries and self-care.

The effects of the sessions were dramatic. The participating doctors became more mindful, less burned out and less emotionally exhausted. But two additional findings surprised the investigators. Several of the improvements persisted even after the yearlong course ended. And, those changes correlated with a significant increase in attributes that contribute to patient-centered care, such as empathy and valuing the psychosocial factors that might affect a patient’s illness experience.