August 17, 2014

Dr. Melanie St. Hilaire

The practice of medicine can be stressful and it is well known that physicians are at increased risk of burnout. So, what can we do to foster resilience and wellbeing? Studies show that healthcare professionals who participated in mindfulness interventions reported reduced stress levels, increased empathy, improved quality of life, and self-compassion.

Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, moment by moment, on purpose, and without judgment (Jon Kabat-Zinn 1994). Training in mindfulness attempts to increase awareness of thoughts, emotions, and maladaptive ways of responding to stress, to help participants learn to cope with stress in a healthier, more skillful way.

Developing the capacity of mindfulness involves:

  1. Noticing, observing and experiencing body sensations, thoughts and emotions, even if they are unpleasant
  2. Acting with awareness and attention, not being on autopilot
  3. Focusing on experience, not on the labels or judgments applied to them

In Spring 2014, physicians, nurse practitioners and residents, gathered together for 8 weekly sessions, in the Buhler Gallery at Saint-Boniface Hospital, to engage in a mindfulness training program. They learned to cultivate self-awareness through various guided meditations including; awareness of breath, body scan, sitting meditation, walking meditation and yoga.

The skills obtained in these sessions have the potential to lower participants’ reactivity to stress and help them adopt greater resilience in the face of adversity.

“Some are born with stress, some achieve stress and others have stress thrust upon them. The key is to channel the stress into positive energy for yourself and for others through mindful meditation. This course is an inspiration and a commitment. Similar to most of adult education, you get out of it what you put in. It took me 6 weeks to reach my ‘karate kid’ revelation but it is truly worth the wait. I hope you give it a chance also.”

– participant

Narrative and appreciative inquiry exercises involved writing stories about clinical experiences focusing on the week’s theme and listening to the other’s stories to understand their experience.

“I expected this course to simply teach methods of meditation for stress reduction, how wrong I was! Topics included effective listening and communication, the influence of perspective and the power of acceptance and forgiveness, to name a few. This holistic approach had an impact on me. The entire experience was very rewarding. Highly recommended.”

– participant

Download Event Program Poster

For future program offerings, see the Fall 2014 Compassion Project Catalogue.

Compassion Project Website: