Most GP Trainees Open to Using Mindfulness to Reduce Burnout
A new U.K. study of general practitioner (GP) trainees shows they experience similar levels of burnout as experienced GPs and that the majority are willing to use mindfulness as a way to reduce burnout’s effects and boost resilience.
Mindfulness is defined as a capacity for enhanced and sustained moment-to-moment awareness of one’s own mental and emotional state and being, in the context of one’s own immediate environment.
Recent evidence has shown that doctors who fully qualify as GPs have a very high rate of leaving the profession within the first five years.
“That is quite worrying because it will mean that there is a crisis in the workforce, especially amongst GPs,” said lead author Dr. Petra Hanson of Warwick Medical School, and a Clinical Research Fellow at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.
“We know that, in general, doctors suffer from relatively high levels of burnout and for patients, that could result in poorer care. But it’s also bad for individual doctors because it could result in those doctors leaving the profession.”
The new findings, published in the journal BJGP Open, suggest that mindfulness could help reduce the number of newly qualified GPs leaving the profession.
“This study casts light on the importance of addressing the wellbeing of doctors as part of their GP training,” said Professor Jeremy Dale, GP in Coventry and Head of the Unit of Academic Primary Care at Warwick Medical School.
“With such high levels of emotional exhaustion and disengagement being experienced by trainees, this is likely to be adversely affecting their wellbeing, their career plans and of course the care of their patients.”
“The interest shown in incorporating mindfulness training as part of GP training suggests that this could be an important life skill that GP trainees are keen to develop to help them cope with the pressures of working in general practice.”
First, the researchers surveyed 47 second- or third-year GP trainees working in Coventry and Warwickshire on their experiences of stress and burnout. The results informed a new Mindful Practice Curriculum that the researchers are currently piloting as a method of helping doctors manage stress and burnout issues in themselves.
The participants completed a survey assessing their wellbeing, resilience and burnout, using well established measures.
The results show that 64% of the trainees were experiencing burnout, defined as issues relating to excessive stress at work. This was broken down into those experiencing emotional exhaustion and disengagement, with 77% of trainees experiencing exhaustion and 80% experiencing disengagement. This is not dissimilar to the rates seen in fully qualified GPs from previous research, which are 94% and 85% respectively.
The team was also surprised to find lower resilience among GPs in training, having assumed that doctors were more likely to have greater resilience, with an average value 3.02 where the normal range would be 3 – 4.3.
The survey showed that a third of the GP trainees were already practicing some sort of mindfulness technique, often in the form of an app. Over 80% wanted to try mindfulness, but wanted to see more evidence for its effectiveness and were concerned about the demands on their time.
The Mindful Practice Curriculum is an intervention designed for doctors. It has been widely tested in the U.S., but the researchers are currently evaluating its effectiveness in the U.K. for the first time. The key difference with this type of mindfulness course is that it is very structured and addresses issues that are specific to doctors.
“In general, the GP trainees were very open to it, and they knew that it was not only going to be benefitting patients but also themselves,” said Hanson.
“We found evidence showing that mindfulness was used among doctors to improve resilience and wellbeing, but we wanted to use something that was structured and specifically designed for doctors. Mindfulness doesn’t have a well-standardised definition of how it can be used as an intervention amongst different groups of people or professionals.”
“This course covers areas such as making mistakes in clinical practice, compassion fatigue, mindful listening, things that every doctor, regardless of their expertise, will at some point in their career have issues with. I’d like to see this programme incorporated into the training of doctors, regardless of speciality. I don’t think there’s any difference between doctors in training.”
Source: University of Warwick
Pedersen, T. (2020). Most GP Trainees Open to Using Mindfulness to Reduce Burnout. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/08/14/most-gp-trainees-open-to-using-mindfulness-to-reduce-burnout/158582.html