Mindfulness could help general practitioners build resilience, reduce burnout


Mindfulness could help trainee general practitioners (GPs) to build their resilience and reduce burnout, helping to reduce the number of newly qualified GPs leaving the profession, according to a new study by the University of Warwick and published in the journal BJGP Open.

For the study, researchers surveyed 47 GP trainees working 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 to manage stress and burnout issues in themselves.

Recent evidence has shown that doctors who fully qualify as a GP have a very high rate of leaving the profession within the first five years. The study showed that GPs in training are experiencing similar levels of burnout to experienced GPs, but that the majority were willing to use mindfulness as a method to reduce its impact.

The researchers recruited 47 GP trainees in their second or third year of training to take part in a survey assessing their wellbeing, resilience, and burnout, using well established measures. They found that 64 percent 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 percent of trainees experiencing exhaustion and 80 percent experiencing disengagement. This is not dissimilar to the rates seen in fully qualified GPs from previous research, which are 94 percent and 85 percent, respectively.

According to the study, 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 to 4.3.

The Mindful Practice Curriculum is an intervention designed for doctors. It has been widely tested in the United States, but the researchers are currently evaluating its effectiveness in the United Kingdom. The key differences with this type of mindfulness course are that it is very structured and addresses issues that are specific to doctors.

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 percent wanted to try mindfulness but wanted to see more evidence for its effectiveness and were concerned about the demands on their time. 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.