How mindfulness training can help doctors

A new study involving U of T researchers has found mindfulness training for doctors improved their communication with patients and colleagues, and led to positive cognitive and behavioural changes.

The study — by Elli Weisbaum, currently Acting Program Director of New College’s Buddhism, Psychology and Mental health program and an assistant professor in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine’s department of psychiatry — was recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The research looked at the experiences of 28 doctors who received five weeks of mindfulness training.

“This study’s findings are encouraging for all health care professionals interested in developing healthy and compassionate workplaces. My hope is that these findings contribute to both individual and systems-level change,” said Weisbaum, who is cross-appointed to the Dalla Lana School of Public Health’s Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation.

Trevor Young, the University of Toronto’s vice-president and provost, as well as a professor in Temerty Medicine’s departments of psychiatry, and pharmacology and toxicology, and Nicholas Chadi, a clinical assistant professor at the Université de Montréal, co-authored the study.

The research involved doctors who came from a range of specialities, including surgery, psychiatry, emergency medicine and family medicine.

Over a span of five weeks in 2019, participants attended weekly in-person applied mindfulness training sessions, based on the teachings from scholar and Zen Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh.    

After doctors completed the training, researchers conducted interviews with participants to understand how mindfulness training impacted their work and daily life.

“Participants report that integrating brief mindfulness practices at the beginning and end of their workday can lead to more effective regulation of workplace stressors, which can lead to feeling more energized at the end of the day,” the study authors wrote.

“Participants also report that a brief mindful reset at the end of the day can reduce the transfer of occupational stressors, such as frustration, to their home environment.”

Read the full story and recap by Gabrielle Giroday, originally posted on November 22, 2023.

Dr. Weisbaum on CBC Radio

Listen to Elli Weisbaum as she talks about this study on CBC Radio.

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