A Prescription for Stress Reduction

By Gregg Sparkman | June 24, 2010 | 1 comment

Can mindfulness prevent doctors from burning out?

As many as 60 percent of practicing physicians report feeling burnt out—emotionally exhausted, unaccomplished. This isn’t just bad news for doctors: Physician burnout decreases the quality of their care, makes medical errors more likely, and increases a patient’s chance of being treated like an object.

© GoodMood Photo

A recent study offers some hope, though, suggesting that the practice of mindfulness can help rejuvenate doctors in as little as eight weeks.

In the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers tested physicians before and after an eight-week training in mindfulness exercises intended to foster moment-by-moment awareness of feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. In the training, 70 physicians practiced mindfulness in exercises such as “body scans,” where they made slow and detailed mental observations of their body parts, and through meditations that involved stepping back and paying attention to their thoughts.

The researchers found that after the training, the doctors experienced less burnout, more emotional stability, greater feelings of empathy for their patients and a heightened ability to take their perspective, and better attitudes towards patient care. These results held 15 months after the training had ended, when the researchers stopped tracking their participants.

So how does mindfulness help doctors? The study’s lead author, Michael Krasner, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Rochester, says that because medical work is so demanding, physicians frequently feel overburdened and are troubled by any imperfections in their work, causing them a high amount of stress. He believes mindfulness might help foster reflection and self-awareness in doctors, so that they’re able to handle stress in “a more responsive mode” rather than simply reacting to it negatively. This enhanced perspective helps them break down a stressful situation, become more aware of what is bothering them, and determine how they can solve it.

Krasner and his co-authors note in their study that while their results are encouraging, more research needs to be done to confirm the benefits they observed. For now, though, Krasner says the study demonstrates the need for “self-care“ among doctors, “not only to allow practitioners to continue the highly stressful and challenging work of practicing medicine, but also to improve their relational capacity—engaging patients more completely—and, as a result, improving the quality of patient care.”

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure

About The Author

Gregg Sparkman is a Greater Good editorial assistant.


Like this article?

Here's what you can do:


Google and Yahoo both offer meditation programs
for their employees because it makes good fiscal
sense. Stress costs businesses about $300 Billion
per year in absenteeism, lack of presence at work,
burnout, hasty communication and other factors.

Meditation and calm self observation can be
likened to stopping at a gas station. You need to
fuel up once in a while or your car will just stop
after a while. Rejuvenating activities are

Everyone has a set of rejuvenating activities as
well as an optimum “object of focus” for
meditation. It can be religious or secular. Find
these activities and work them into your day. It
can be something simple like a peace prayer or
gratitute work or meditation on the breath or an
image of Jesus. Stretches and deep breathing are
great, too. Use that 10 seconds in the elevator to
do these things. You will experience profound
results after a short time, and burnout will be less

Tom Von Deck | 11:40 am, June 25, 2010 | Link

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017
Clark Kerr Campus, UC-Berkeley
Sunday, June 25 - Friday, June 30, 2017 OR Sunday, July 16 - Friday, July 21, 2017

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017

The GGSC’s six-day Summer Institute equips education professionals with prosocial learning strategies, tools and processes that benefit both students and teachers.


Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

Roots of Empathy By Mary Gordon Mary Gordon explains how best to nurture empathy and social emotional literacy in all children—and thereby reduce aggression, antisocial behavior, and bullying.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement