Purpose: In addition to structural transformations, deeper changes are needed to enhance physicians’ sense of meaning and satisfaction with their work and their ability to respond creatively to a dynamically changing practice environment. The purpose of this research was to understand what aspects of a successful continuing education program in mindful communication contributed to physicians’ well-being and the care they provide.
Method: In 2008, the authors conducted in-depth, semistructured interviews with primary care physicians who had recently completed a 52-hour mindful communication program demonstrated to reduce psychological distress and burnout while improving empathy. Interviews with a random sample of 20 of the 46 physicians in the Rochester, New York, area who attended at least four of eight weekly sessions and four of eight monthly sessions were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed qualitatively. The authors identified salient themes from the interviews.
Results: Participants reported three main themes: (1) sharing personal experiences from medical practice with colleagues reduced professional isolation, (2) mindfulness skills improved the participants’ ability to be attentive and listen deeply to patients’ concerns, respond to patients more effectively, and develop adaptive reserve, and (3) developing greater self-awareness was positive and transformative, yet participants struggled to give themselves permission to attend to their own personal growth.
Conclusions: Interventions to improve the quality of primary care practice and practitioner well-being should promote a sense of community, specific mindfulness skills, and permission and time devoted to personal growth.
Dr. Beckman is a faculty member, Center for Communication and Disparities Research, clinical professor of medicine and family medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and director of strategic innovation, Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, Rochester, New York.
Ms. Wendland is associate director of research and planning, Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, Rochester, New York.
Mr. Mooney is senior information analyst, Office of Curriculum and Assessment, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York.
Dr. Krasner is clinical associate professor, Department of Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York.
Dr. Quill is professor of medicine, psychiatry, and medical humanities, and director, Center for Ethics, Humanities, and Palliative Care, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York.
Dr. Suchman is clinical professor of medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and senior consultant, McArdle, Ramerman, & Co., Rochester, New York.
Dr. Epstein is professor of family medicine, psychiatry, oncology, and nursing; director, Deans Teaching Fellowship Program; and director, Center for Communication and Disparities Research, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York.
Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Epstein, Family Medicine Research Programs, 1381 South Ave., Rochester, NY 14620; telephone: (585) 506-9484 ext. 206; fax: (585) 473-2245; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.