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Medical Student and Resident Programs

In 2007, we implemented a required Mindful Practice curriculum for medical students and residents at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The goal was to teach and reinforce patient-centered care using secular contemplative practices, narrative medicine, reflective questioning and appreciative inquiry. We have developed modules that are each built around a particular theme, such as professionalism, how doctors think, witnessing suffering, medical errors, well-being and burnout, breakdowns in communication, and handling conflict compassionately. After an initial didactic component in which information and research data relevant to the theme are presented, participants engage in a brief period of contemplative practice. These include guided mindfulness meditation as well as other exercises that bring attention to the present moment. Participants then engage in a narrative exercise in which they recall a clinical experience related to the theme and spend a period of time writing about their experience. After writing, trainees pair up or divide into small groups, taking turns telling and listening to each other’s stories using techniques of reflective questioning. In some sessions, participants interview each other, focusing on how difficult situations were managed effectively. The sessions close with simple mindfulness exercises to practice on their own at home and during clinical practice.

As of July 2017, over 1,000 University of Rochester medical students have participated. There is a clear need for the program, as emotional well-being has been shown to deteriorate over the continuum of the four years of medical school, and levels of burnout beyond formal training are high among practicing health professionals.  Unfortunately, recent trends have demonstrated increasing levels of burnout.  Health professionals are hungry to reacquaint themselves with the calling that brought them to medicine in the first place.