Mindfulness Training Prevents Burnout, Boosts Compassion Among Doctors

A growing body of research has shown multiple benefits of mindfulness, including helping smokers quit their habit, improving sleep quality, and even helping students score higher on standardized tests. Now, mindfulness training has been linked with a number of positive outcomes for physicians and their patients.

Mindfulness practice — the cultivation of a focused awareness on the present moment — can improve physicians’ performance by not only preventing burnout, but also by helping them better connect with their patients, according to two small, recent studies in the September/October issue of Annals of Family Medicine.

In the first study, conducted by Dr. Luke Fortney, M.D., of the Meriter Medical Group in Madison, Wisc., and his team, 30 primary care physicians underwent a short mindfulness training course. They were then assessed for job satisfaction, quality of life and compassion for up to nine months after the course.

Compared to physicians who were not trained in mindfulness, participants showed improvements at one day, two months, and nine months after they were trained in the course. The researchers found that at nine months, the physicians were significantly less burnt out and had lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress, compared with doctors who didn’t undergo the training course. They also scored higher on scales measuring compassion.

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