Mindfulness physical therapy, pain management, rehabilitation

Mindfulness, Providers and Communication

Patient-centered care and provider well-being go hand in hand. In a study by Dobkin and colleagues, mindfulness, stress, burnout, depression and life being meaningful were examined in 25 clinicians before and after an MBSR course.1 Researchers hypothesized that when clinicians were less stressed, burnt out and more mindful, they would have improved communication with their patients. Physicians, psychologists, nurses, dieticians, an osteopath and researcher participated. Nine physicians provided audiotapes pre- and post-MBSR.

Compared with pre-MBSR levels, clinicians experienced significant decreases in stress and burnout and increases in mindfulness following the training program. Patients reported physicians demonstrated increased interest and understanding of their illness experience. Audiotapes revealed that following MBSR, physicians spoke less and when they did speak their comments were more in agreement, encouraging and relevant to the patient’s medical condition. Improved understanding of a patient’s experience was significantly correlated with decreases in depersonalization by physicians.

These improvements in communication are not limited to patient encounters. Clinicians who train in mindfulness also describe changes in communication with family and friends. One provider in my course described finding his young son upset and crying for failing to make a baseball team. The clinician said, in the past, he would remind his son of how lucky he was. Instead, he started to mindfully breathe and became aware of his own pain at observing his son’s unhappiness. He chose to pause and allow his son to express his distress and disappointment. He used reflective listening to let his son know he understood the pain he felt. This calmed the boy and eventually they engaged in a conversation about experiencing life’s disappointments. The clinician commented that it was one of those special moments in parenting when you feel connected and know you made a positive difference in your child’s life.

1 Dobkin PL, Bernardi, Bagnis CI. Enhancing clinicians’ well-being and patient centered care through mindfulness. J Contin Educ Health Prof. 2016;36(1):11-16.