To combat this, we are called upon to reach a higher degree of commitment within ourselves and curb the tide of fear. Mindfulness is an optimal behavioral strategy within this period of self-isolation to manage our stress and establish the foundation for optimizing our mental and emotional hygiene.
Recently I have let myself consider how wonderful of a physician Mary Oliver would have been, and how wonderful a medical school classmate.
Through my patient’s same wants and needs, I saw my own thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears and my own desire to be liked, to be wanted, to be needed. I felt, for the first time in a very long time, a genuine human connection.
My mind kept returning to the patient I had encountered earlier that day. I experienced this subtle feeling that something important had happened. I became curious about the man and his story, but above all, I wondered what the most important part of that appointment had been.
The opportunity to be immersed in learning the stories behind the health of patients is one of the things that drew me to medicine, and, indeed, it still intrigues me. More importantly, I was (and still am) intrigued by the opportunity and challenge of using the multiple streams of information patients present with to make functional improvements in their lives.
In medicine, as in medical training, time is the enemy. There is not enough time to talk to patients or study for board exams. There is not enough time to read the latest literature. At the end of the day, there is not enough time to make plans with friends or develop a gym routine that is anything but sporadic.
Most of my articles bear a similar theme: find activity, go on activity, discuss what I learned from the activity and my recommendations for whether or not my readers should pursue said activity. This one is … different.
Peering around the door anxiously, my eyes connected once again with the receptionist. After receiving her knowing glance, I once again stepped away from the doorway. It was 9:02 a.m. My first experience shadowing a pediatrician and interviewing patients was slated to begin promptly at 9 a.m.
The topic of burnout is huge in today’s medical community. Multiple articles and studies have been published demonstrating that burnout is prevalent in all levels of medical training from the day-one medical student to the most senior practicing attending.
There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness these days — its importance, its effectiveness, the benefits of meditation and even the structural changes in the brain that result from it. (Do you want a less reactive amygdala and increased neuronal density in the hippocampus? Meditate!) It’s one thing to read about the benefits of doing something, but as many know, it’s another thing to actually apply it and understand it. So how can medical students use stress reduction strategies “in the context of the high-stakes, high-stress and time-limited environment of medical school.”
For most medical students, the third year of medical school is their introduction to life in the hospital. This results not only in exciting learning opportunities, but also emotional tolls — grief, fear, anxiety, exhaustion — that can lead to serious problems including burnout, depression, and anxiety.
How can doctors-in-training confront great suffering without closing off emotionally? Jamie, a Class of 2014 medical student graduate heading to work at ABC News and starting a media project about the interface of meditation and medicine, shares how she practices presence with her own body and emotions in order to be present with others.