Mindfulness and Doctor Burnout

A recent New York Times article looks at two studies capturing how mindfulness training is improving the health of doctors and their patients. 

The average doctor spends about seven minutes with a patient during a visit—a short window of time to communicate effectively and without causing more stress for both doctor and patient.

Pauline Chen, M.D., puts us behind the wheel of what goes on in her mind when she sees a patient: it’s difficult to think about what’s going on right in front of her. She writes:

I had walked into the exam room to listen to this patient; but my mind was a few steps behind, as I struggled with thoughts about the colleague who’d just snapped at me over the phone because she was in no mood to get another new consult, my mounting piles of unfinished paperwork, and the young patient with widespread cancer whom I’d seen earlier in the day. Thoughts about my new patient jumbled in the mix, too, but they came into focus only after I had pushed away the fears that I might have neglected to order a key test on my last patient, that I’d forgotten to call another patient and that I was already running behind schedule.

Chen discusses two recent studies looking at how mindfulness can help the doctor-patient relationship and reduce doctor burnout.

To read the article and learn more about the studies, click here.

For more on doctor burnout and mindfulness training taking place in hospitals, see “Sustaining Compassion in Health Care,” where guest blogger Robert McClure talks about a compassion cultivation training program taking place at some San Diego hospitals through Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE).