Being Mindful Matters

By | March 30, 2020

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some previous posts that are relevant to the uncertain healthcare climate we are navigating right now with COVID-19.

What is the definition of being mindful? In the simplest terms, it conveys to be aware of your thoughts and emotions, in addition to demonstrating consideration of those with whom you interact. Hence, it is essential to remove bias, assumption, and judgment from the equation. Therefore, when we’re mindful, we strive to be present in the moment and in-tune with what’s happening around us, no matter what may be transpiring within our mind. In healthcare, it’s vital to practice mindfulness. Frequently, our patients come to us with challenges, and often they are stressed and frightened. Therefore, it is crucial to (figuratively) put ourselves in their shoes to best communicate and support them in a way that will be effective and meaningful. Let’s pause a moment and contemplate what happens if we aren’t mindful. Imagine a patient who develops worsening symptoms related to a chronic condition. If we act on face value, perhaps we might adjust the dosage or try a different medication. But if we instead pause and dig deeper, we may discover that the patient wasn’t properly taking the medication prescribed, maybe even as the result of it being too expensive. The solution to the problem now looks completely different. Reacting too quickly and not pausing to consider other influencing factors could negatively affect the health and safety of the patient. In another scenario, imagine a co-worker drops the ball on a project you’re both supporting. Instead of jumping to conclusions and creating a strained relationship, being mindful signifies stopping to consider there may be more to the story: a personal illness, a crisis at home, an ailing parent. Not taking the time to reach out and acquire additional information may prevent us from helping another team member. Our being mindful may mean sitting down with an aging patient and instead of making a decision about their care quickly, evaluating whether there is an advanced directive in place and a support system behind them. Being mindful also requires valuing each other in the workplace. When sitting at a meeting, if we are aware of everyone in the room and how each plays a role in the current discussion, we create the ability to hear more opinions, increase engagement and improve communication and collaboration. The demand and pace of our industry require that we are frequently moving so quickly that our mind is already on to the next task, patient, or interaction. The risks with this can be both substantial and minuscule. Slowing down and being present takes discipline and practice. Let us work to be more mindful by remembering this simple concept, to keep our minds right where our bodies are.