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Mindfulness in Healthcare Professions



The Great Doctor dissolves karmic afflictions;

The High Doctor cures diseases of the future;

The Intermediate Doctor heals already manifested illnesses;

The Low Doctor only has one static method;

The Charlatan Doctor causes people to die.

Taoist proverb

Modern time professionals are confronted with increasing working hours, which often lead to stress-related problems and a loss of life balance. In the business world, it's common to work an average of 40-60 hours a week, to be available 7/24 or to have the biological clock deserted by constant change of the time zones. Such a lifestyle affects mind and body, causing health issues, behavioral and mental disorders, social incompetence, under-achievements or serious mistakes.

According to 2014 statistics, in “the Work/Life Profiles of Today’s Physician”, the average working day in medical professions is about the same. Still, there is one important difference: caregivers (such as health-care professionals, psychologists, social workers and spiritual teachers) have other people's lives in their hands. Mistakes they make are often irreparable and can ruin or cost a person's life. This adds an extra dimension of stress to people conducting one of these professions. The fear of misdiagnosing or mistreating someone, sadness due to constant witness of suffering and death, frustration, self-doubt, or feeling of guilt are just a few of the additional stress related factors specific to the medical profession.

Such emotional draining adds up to long working hours, insufficient sleep and regeneration time, causing constant fatigue, absent-mindedness, forgetfulness, and apathy to life and the patients. This is often followed by burnout, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

Unfortunately, today’s world has largely distorted the attitude to life and work. Profit orientation and commercialization have intruded even professions that should be driven by other values. This imprisons even people who are sincerely involved in humanitarian and health-care professions. Constant interplay between the two worlds - materialistic and humanistic, brings with it excessive stress that is detrimental not only to the doctor and to the patient, but also to society.

Although society bears responsibility for restoring its original purpose: protection and service to human; the highest responsibility still lies in the hands of each individual. And an important part of that is the responsibility for self-care, which should be assumed with the utmost seriousness.

"...society bears responsibility for restoring its original purpose: protection and service to human"

This demand for people working in the medical profession is not innovation, but the return to the roots. Cultivation of one's energy, health and wisdom was (and still is) the most important thing for any healer. Only a healthy person can cure another. Only if one knows how to help oneself can also help others.

"Only a healthy person can cure another..."


Frequently asked questions

Should doctors meditate?

Absolutely. And though for most of them it may be the hardest thing to do, because it’s the opposite of how they've learned to function and be. One of the most important reasons why a physician or nurse has to meditate is to reconnect to the present moment and learn to let go of the past one. It is not about forgetting, but rather about re-focusing.

Meditation reconnects you to breathing

The essence of meditative work lays in reconnection with one's own breathing. Most people breathe only superficially and do not use the entire lung capacity. This has a negative effect on general health, the nervous system and stress resistance. But just as much stress and anxiety can affect the breath, so too can the breath affect stress. This feature is used in various meditative practices to re-balance system.

Meditation reduces emotional stress

By letting go of the past moment, with all its thoughts and emotions, one can create enough capacity for a new emotional encounter. Instead of fleeing or being overpowered by emotions, one learns through meditation to recognize understand, and handle feelings. In particular, recognizing the underlying anxiety and reprogramming the response to it, can help build a strong resistance to stress.

Meditation as a tool against stress related errors

The common error control is usually based on the traditional system: test, test and retest. But for various reasons, this control system is not always effective. Instead of chasing mistakes, it is always more efficient to invest in error prevention. Meditative practices are tools that improve stress resistance and lead to improved focus and performance, resulting in fewer errors.

“I don’t have time” excuse The feeling of “not having time” is already a symptom of the state of stress. An old Zen proverb says: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” In fact, the feeling of being overworked has nothing to do with the amount of work that needs to be done, but with the constant repetition of the mental list of tasks assigned for a near or distant future. As a result, one is not focused on the task in actual time but mentally moves into a future that does not exist yet. The attention is split and stress arises. Through meditation, one learns to keep the focus on the right time. The focus is not transferred to the past and the future and returns to the moment when the task exists and can be carried out - to the present.

Why resistance?

Health professionals are no different from other people. They often assume that meditation can trigger their subconscious and alert resident demons, from whom they often run away their entire live. And like everyone else, they are afraid to meet them. But it is always better to meet and get to know own demons than to wait for them to show up when they are least expected.

Secondary impact of meditation on patients Patients require mindful and compassionate health professionals. Such caregivers act in a focused and conscious manner, allowing the use of full capacity (intellect and senses) when assessing the condition of the patient and deciding on the treatment. Without mindfulness, some information and symptoms may go undetected, leading to a wrong diagnosis or treatment.

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