There is really only one problem – distraction. And therefore only one solution – mindfulness. -Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Normally we do not so much look at things as overlook them. –Alan Watts
In an age when multi-tasking is lauded as a prized gift, it can become easy to lose sight of the value of being fully present in the moment, something referred to as “mindfulness”. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.1 While we know that being mindful during patient encounters allows us to listen fully to our patients, make more accurate diagnoses, and develop more effective treatment plans, preventing ourselves from becoming distracted can be a challenge.
Mindfulness may improve our attention and ultimately the care of our patients, but it may also be a path to personal happiness with improved work – life integration. Let’s look at the following resources and improve our daily lives by knowing ourselves and ultimately knowing our own minds. We will start this journey looking at issues in our personal life and extend it to examine the effects of mindfulness on our work life.
Review the 5 Steps to a Clearer Mind . Go ahead, try the exercise! Be prepared to discuss how you prioritized your thoughts, how you decided what to place in each column. Be prepared to discuss what criteria you used to delete items!
Read The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment. Pick one or more of the steps to try. Record your experience in your journal or notes. Be prepared to discuss the experience. Did your attempt to live in the moment improve your day, have no effect, or just slow you down?
Reflect on a patient encounter when distraction had the potential to or did cause harm.
- Describe the situation. Set the stage and be specific to help the reader more fully appreciate the context in which you became distracted. As well, describe the source of your distraction, giving enough background information so that the reader can understand what was distracting you.
- Examine why you were distracted in the situation described. What were the competing interests with which you were dealing? Were you surprised that you were distracted? In considering situations in which you have been distracted from patient care, also consider whether there have been situations in which your patient care has distracted you from other responsibilities (family, friends, etc.). Do you find that the sources of your distraction in these two situations are similar or different?
- Analyze the impact your being distracted had on your interaction with and care for your patient. Did it also impact your interactions with other members of the healthcare team (including support staff, nurses, interns, residents, and faculty providers)? If so, how?
Finally, after reviewing the above resources, be prepared to discuss ways you feel that we could be more mindful in our day to day lives in the hospital. Consider if these techniques could also be used to improve life outside of the hospital. Which techniques or steps resonate with you?