Finally, medical students, under extreme stress of studies and exams are getting a holistic family health course in mind-body approaches to well-being that they can pass forward to patients as well as help themselves manage the stress of rigorous medical school studies that usually goes along with more hours spent studying and fewer hours spent sleeping.
Locally, in the Sacramento and Davis area, the University of California, Davis also teaches mind-body medicine. See, “Mindfulness from meditation associated with lower stress hormone.” Focusing on the present rather than letting the mind drift may help to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, suggests new research from the Shamatha Project at the University of California, Davis. The ability to focus mental resources on immediate experience is an aspect of mindfulness, which can be improved by meditation training.
“This is the first study to show a direct relation between resting cortisol and scores on any type of mindfulness scale,” said Tonya Jacobs, a postdoctoral researcher at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain and first author of a paper describing the work, published the week of March 27, 2013 in the journal Health Psychology. For more information on local programs, see, the UC Davis Shamatha Project, a comprehensive long-term, control-group study of the effects of meditation training on mind and body. For more information on the local Sacramento project, see, “Shamatha Project – Center for Mind and Brain.” Check out the article, “Overview of the Shamatha Project,” by Anthony Zanesco.
A new study at Boston University School of Medicine shows the positive impact of a mind-body course given to medical students
A new Boston University Medical Center (BUSM) study published May 1, 2013 in Medical Education Online shows the positive impact of mind-body course on well-being of medical students. The Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) study shows a mind-body class elective for medical students helps increase their self-compassion and ability to manage thoughts and tasks more effectively. The study also discusses how this innovative course may help medical students better manage stress and feel more empowered to use mind-body skills with their patients.
Allison Bond, MA, a third-year medical student at BUSM, served as the paper’s first author. The course was designed and taught by co-author Heather Mason, MA, founder and director of the Mind Institute. How would you like to feel more aware of your body, feel a sense of community, build confidence in using mind-body skills, and manage stress? The road to all this accomplishment can come from the neuroscience of relaxation, breathing exercises, and similar practices of relaxing while keeping your mind from wandering and staying in the moment when trying to de-stress and heal.
“An effective career in medicine requires technical competence and expertise, but just as important is the ability to empathize and connect with others, including patients,” said Robert Saper, MD, MPH, director of integrative medicine at Boston Medical Center and associate professor of family medicine at BUSM, according to a May 1, 2013 news release, “BUSM study shows positive impact of mind-body course on well-being of medical students.” However, medical students experience tremendous demands from workload, stress and competition from other students to succeed, resulting in burnout and a decreased ability to connect with patients, according to studies.
“Research has shown that mindfulness meditation and yoga may increase psychological well-being, which is why we looked at how a course based on these principles could impact medical students,” said Bond in the news release. Also see, “Free Medical Education Online | Clinical Rotations | Student.”
Mind-body approaches to well-being open to medical students
The 11-week course, Embodied Health: Mind-Body Approaches to Well-Being, was open to first and second year medical students in good academic standing. It was developed to teach students about mind-body approaches, and the neuroscience behind the activities, that they might not otherwise learn in medical school but could use to help their patients achieve better overall health.
Offered for the first time in Spring 2012, it met once weekly and included a 30 minute lecture about the neuroscience of yoga, relaxation and breathing exercises followed by a 60 minute yoga, deep breathing and mediation session. Each student was asked to practice the techniques (breathing, yoga, and other forms) at least three times a week.
Participants filled out surveys before the course began and after it ended, and were asked about perceived empathy, perceived stress, self-regulation (ability to develop, implement and flexibly maintain planned behavior to achieve goals) and self-compassion. They also were asked to compose a one-page essay at the completion of the course to discuss if what they learned helped them personally and whether it influenced their ability to cope with stress or enhanced their sense of well-being.
“Our study provides compelling evidence that mind-body approaches have benefits for medical students and could have a positive impact on their interaction with peers and patients,” explained Bond in the news release. Also check out, “Yoga Gets into Med School | BU Today | Boston University” and “Embodied health: the effects of a mind-body course for medical students – MDLinx.”
Overall, responses indicate a statistically significant increase in self-regulation and self-compassion. There also was a decrease in perceived stress and an increase in empathy, although not statistically significant. The essays also indicate that the course helped many students:
- feel more aware of their bodies,
- feel a sense of community among their peers despite the competitive environment,
- build confidence in using mind-body skills with patients and
- better manage stress.