Mindfulness in Helping Prevent Personal Burnout for Healthcare Professionals

“Baseline rates of burnout among physicians hovered around 50% even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since COVID, rates have increased. Recent data show that 60% of healthcare workers reported that their mental health had suffered over the last year. And an astonishing 30% of physicians and residents and 54% of nurses reported moderate to high levels of burnout. “

https://www.mindful.org/mindfulhome-mindfulness-for-healthcare-workers-during-covid/ accessed May 5, 2022 

Constant stress experienced by healthcare professionals can lead to burnout, attrition, depression, and aggressive behavior [1,2,3]. Currently post-pandemic, there are more healthcare professions exhibiting a very high level of emotional exhaustion and deper­sonalization [4].  Therefore, healthcare workers are not only exposed to the per­vasive stress, study, and activity, but also to the essential perfectionism that is associated with their professional performance level. Healthcare professionals need tools to take a step back, relax and to effectively equalize work, study, home with rest. Moreover, healthcare professionals need to balance the maintenance of their own mental health and well-being as well as delivering quality healthcare to patients [1].

Among the multitude of potential solutions for the healthcare personnel burnout crisis, organizational culture and policy changes are important; however, the practice of mindfulness, which has countless applications and proven benefits, may be essential in helping individuals reduce the symptoms of burnout [5]. Healthcare professionals and leaders practicing mindfulness can benefit with improved focus, strategic awareness, emotional-intelligence-based leadership skills, and more effective communication [5].

According to the Greater Good website at the University of California at Berkeley (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/), mindfulness is defined as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens” [6]. The website further refers to mindfulness as involving acceptance, (paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them). When practicing mindfulness exercises, our mind and thoughts are tuned into what we are sensing in our body in the “present moment” rather than revisiting the past or imagining the future [6]. 

The roots of mindfulness are in Buddhist meditation, and has entered the American therapeutic realm, in part through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979 [6]. Mindfulness could be the potential missing link between evi­dence-based medicine and relationship-centered care [1]. 

  • Evidence-based benefits for health care professionals utilizing a mindfulness practice suggest mindfulness is helpful to improve coping skills to handle stress [7], better bonding with patients, and enhance their personal quality of life [8]. Furthermore, studies have shown for mental health professionals a mindfulness practice can help reduce negative emotions and anxiety, as well as increase positive emotions and feelings of self-compassion [6].

  • Other studies suggest that mindfulness can benefit our brain function via decreasing distractions and improve memory, attention and decision-making skills [6,10,11,12].

In summary, a mindfulness practice can help cope with stress, improve attention and focus as well as help us be better healthcare professionals in providing a higher quality of care for patients while balancing our own quality of life. Consider starting a mindfulness practice today – meditation, yoga or just simple grounding exercises will help you and all around you be more positive, healthy and happy.  


  1. Chmielewski J, Los K and Lodzimierz W. Mindfulness in Healthcare Professionals and Medical Education. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health 2021;34(1):1 – 14, https://doi.org/10.13075/ijomeh.1896.01542
  2. Shanafelt TD, Boone S, Tan L, Dyrbye LN, Sotile W, Satele D, et al. Burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance among US physicians relative to the general US population. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(18):1377–85, https://doi.org/10.1001/ archinternmed.2012.3199. 
  3. Botha E, Gwin T, Purpora C. The effectiveness of mindful­ness based programs in reducing stress experienced by nurses in adult hospital settings: a systematic review of quantitative evidence protocol. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 2015;13(10):21–9, https://doi.org/10.11124/jbisrir-2015-2380. 
  4. Fortney L, Luchterhand C, Zakletskaia L, Zgierska A, Rakel D. Abbreviated mindfulness intervention for job satisfac­tion, quality of life, and compassion in primary care clinicians: a pilot study. Ann Fam Med. 2013;11(5):412–20, https://doi. org/10.1370/afm.1511.
  5. https://www.mindful.org/mindfulhome-mindfulness-for-healthcare-workers-during-covid/ accessed May 5, 2022
  6. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition#what-is-mindfulness; accessed May 5, 2022
  7. Irving JA, Dobkin PL, Park J. Cultivating mindfulness in health care professionals: a review of empirical studies of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2009 May;15(2):61-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2009.01.002. Epub 2009 Feb 28. PMID: 19341981.
  8. Shapiro, S. L., Astin, J. A., Bishop, S. R., & Cordova, M. (2005). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Health Care Professionals: Results From a Randomized Trial. International Journal of Stress Management, 12(2), 164–176. https://doi.org/10.1037/1072-5245.12.2.164
  9. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/try_selfcompassion/ accessed May 5, 2022
  10. Kerr, C.E., et. al. “Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Anticipatory Alpha Modulation in Primary Somatosensory Cortex" Brain Research Bulletin, Vol. 85 (3-4), May 2011, 96-103.
  11. Moore A, Gruber T, Derose J, Malinowski P. Regular, brief mindfulness meditation practice improves electrophysiological markers of attentional control. Front Hum Neurosci. 2012 Feb 10;6:18. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00018. PMID: 22363278; PMCID: PMC3277272.
  12. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_mindfulness_improve_decision_makingaccessed May 5, 2022
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