Being mindful of diffusion tactics for healthcare burnout

In the hectic, fast-paced, fluid world of medicine, it’s easy to become disparate. After all, it’s hard for most physicians to catch their breath, let alone catch up with separate departments and staff members.

To perpetuate a sense of cohesion and togetherness, conscious efforts to gather whole workforces together, even if it happens only monthly, is a necessity. And, as an American Medical News story proves, these assemblies don’t even require talking to get to the point.

As the article observes:

“At a Rush University Medical Center continuing education course in Chicago last fall, a room of more than 80 physicians and other health professionals did something they rarely do during days packed with rushed patient encounters and consultations with colleagues — they sat together in silence for a solid 35 minutes.

In neat rows of chairs, the doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and other health professionals sat straight-backed with their hands on their knees and their eyes open, gazing into the middle distance. Throats were cleared, coughs pierced the stillness, and an elevated train rumbled just outside the conference room's picture windows.

‘The effort in this practice is remembering to come back — back to your posture, back to your breathing, over and over again,’ said Mitchell M. Levy, MD. He led the exercise, known as mindfulness meditation, with a quiet yet commanding tone of voice.

‘Whatever thought or feeling arises, just bring it here,’ he said. ‘Let it be here in this space.’”

This concept of practice mindfulness does seem decidedly new age. Even the idea of sitting and staring at colleagues silently for the better half of an hour — as the Rush crew did above — feels counterproductive, if not a bit kooky. But with physician and healthcare staff burnouts rising evermore, any communal gathering, even one without words, could mean the diffusion of stress and the retention of personnel.

Most practice or branch meetings involve copious amounts of sharing and collaboration, but perhaps an added monthly meditation meeting could offer a different level of peace and belonging that many workplaces are lacking. Setting aside the time for any interested parties following normal business hours would allow workers to compose themselves before making the transition from work to home.

Moreover, according to Levy, it’s a recognized idea that’s time has come.

“What I've discovered now, to my amazement, is how ready people are to embrace this,” he told amednews. “It seems timely in the culture right now. People understand that there are so many forces that lead us to be distracted. We're being asked to do more in the caregiving setting than ever before, with fewer resources...This is about how you take a distracted mind pulled in a million directions and give it a technique that allows it to rest and become clearer.”

Sometimes progress is as much about the times when we aren’t moving than it is about the moments when we’re in full swing. Maybe then, for the industry to take steps against burnout, it should encourage workers to stop, sit and be mindful for 30 minutes every month, week, or day. Internal journeys can go a long way.