Mindfulness physical therapy, pain management, rehabilitation

Mindfulness Training Improves Provider Well-Being

Healthcare providers are under increasing stress and vulnerable to burnout due to multiple factors including productivity expectations, reduced reimbursement, changing documentation requirements and time consuming electronic record keeping. Preliminary research demonstrates training in mindfulness reduces burnout and promotes wellbeing among healthcare providers.1-4 In one study, 93 healthcare providers, including physicians, nurses, physical therapists and other professionals from both university and community settings, participated in a continuing education course based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.1 Upon program completion, participants demonstrated significant improvements in emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, personal accomplishment and mental wellbeing.

Mindfulness training enables providers to observe our experience in a steady, nonjudgmental, nonreactive way. We learn to meet ourselves with kindness, openness and curiosity. Just as we train the body for strength, flexibility and endurance through exercise, we can train the mind to be calm, present and stable though mindful practices. We can improve our attention and emotional regulation and reduce stress reactivity. At the end of one of my courses, a participant commented, “This is going to help me even more than my patients.” I smiled at the thought. Taking care of ourselves is taking care of our patients. When we are more calm, present and stable, we are better able to effectively respond to our patients’ concerns and needs.

One simple practice I recommend to providers is to bring mindfulness to hand washing. This is an activity we do throughout the day. Become aware of your breath and the sensation of the water on your hands. Notice your shoulders. If they are tense, let them relax. Observe your mood with acceptance and friendliness. Give yourself a moment of kind, compassionate attention. A simple practice like mindful hand washing can help you stay calm and centered throughout a busy work day.

1 Goodman MA and Schorling JB. A mindfulness course decreases burnout and improves well-being among healthcare providers. Int J Psychiatry Med. 2012;43(2):119-28.

2 Cohen-Katz J, Wiley SD, Capuano T, et al. The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on nurse stress and burnout, part II. A quantitative and qualitative study. Holistic Nursing Practice 2005;19:26-35.

3 Krasner MS, Epstein RM, Beckman H, et al. Association of an educational program in mindful communication with burnout, empathy and attitudes among primary care physicians. JAMA. 2009;302:1284-1293.

4 Fortney L, Luchterhand C, Zakletskaia L, et al. Abbreviated mindfulness intervention for job satisfaction, quality of life, and compassion in primary care clinicians: a pilot study. Ann Fam Med. 2013;11(5):412-20.