Mindfulness experiences for Medical Students and Residents

Hi -
I am on faculty at a medical school, and am receiving requests for short (approx 1 hour) sporadic (quarterly) mindfulness experiences for medical students and medical residents. While I would prefer they would just take the 8 week course, I understand time and work restraints that make it difficult. I am puzzling over what to offer that will be interesting enough to bring them back, practical enough for them to use and fundamental enough be of benefit to their lives.

Does anyone have suggestions, exercises or practices that they are willing to share?
Thanks for your help.
Ellie Schellinger

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I have been teaching mindfulness at a medical school where I am on staff for the past few years and the one hour slots do make it more difficult. I teach one hour a week for 4 consecutive weeks. The one hour usually boils down to 50 minutes and due to study/work restraints attendance is not always great so there is not good continuity. I’ve spoken with my MBSR supervisor about this and we have concluded that 1 hour is not ideal, but it is better than nothing. So I focus on bringing awareness to the extent that automatic pilot dominates their lives. I do the raisin exercise as a starting point and this is powerful. I do a meditation for 10 minutes at the start and finish and use the in between time to talk about their experience of the meditation. They do “homework” in between, such as informal awareness activities and a formal one. But again, they will not commit to long meditations due to lime constraints (real or perceived) so I give them shorter ones (10-20 minutes). I will be honest and say it is difficult because there is absolutely no way they will get the same benefit as a full course. I’m just planting the seed and letting go of the fruits of my labour. Some continue on with mindfulness,others don’t.

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Hi Jude-
Thank you for your reply. I appreciate the confirmation that these short sessions are basically a seed planting exercise. It will be a good opportunity to encourage them to take the 8 week course, introduce some foundational skills and see what happens.
All the best to you-

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I have done once a month with the medical students and residents and it definitely a seed planting process. There were students who were interested enough to come to the 8 week program as a result and residents who are now staffs who remember those monthly meetings and mentioned now how it’s everywhere they go. So, it’s still seeds worth planting if you can.

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That is encouraging. Thanks!

Hi Ellie,
I recently started teaching mindfulness to the Brown medical residents. As others have said, they haven’t been willing to engage in any long home practices (understandably). But the experiences we’ve had in the groups have created profound shifts for some. I’ve found that loving-kindness and self-compassion have been especially beneficial for them. Just giving them a few moments to be still will likely be a huge gift. Best wishes to you!
Erin Sharaf

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Hi all,
I am a medicine resident and taught mindfulness to classmates in medical school. From the feedback I’ve heard, it seems like a combination of presenting the research on the benefits of mindfulness and leaving space for experiential learning has worked best. The research part helps with buy-in, and there is a lot out there on how mindfulness can help physicians practice better medicine. And I agree with everyone’s comments, it has been mostly about planting a seed so that when people have time, they will hopefully choose to investigate more.

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts,

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I am teaching mindfulness to residents and staff physicians. I agree with the comments about something being better than nothing, and planting seeds.

In terms of curriculum to draw from, I highly recommend Mindful Practice by Ron Epstein, Michael Krasner et al at University of Rochester. It is quite different from MBSR, as it focuses on topics that are directly relevant to MD’s, e.g. suffering, compassion (and compassion fatigue), burnout and resilience, medical errors, teamwork, etc. It also incorporates a lot of mindful communication and narrative medicine exercises, which are highly effective with this population. You can order their materials online, or better yet do the trainings with them and learn it firsthand. Ron’s book “Attending: Mindfulness, Medicine, and Humanity” is a masterpiece.


Also you may wish to join this “Mindful Health Care Providers” Facebook group, and pose the question there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2082029985351202/

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I’ve purchased the book - thanks for the direction.

Thanks Dzung, Yes Ron’s book really gets to the heart of the unique stressors and issues faced by healthcare providers and is an important adjunct to the MBSR program for this population.

I have been using it as part of my classes teaching introduction to mindfulness to healthcare providers, more at the nursing and assistant level.

I think its discussion is one that has to be had with medical students. Just as The House of God laid bare the not so rosy experiences of internship and residency, Ron’s book brilliantly articulates the suffering and stressors we face and offers methods that can be helpful in working with “the system” and patients with compassion.

This little tweak to the mindfulness curriculum may make the classes more relevant to what they are experiencing and will be embarking upon professionally.

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I have also just purchased this book, I am about to do a literature review on mindfulness-based interventions for healthcare students and professionals.