Health practitioners have always been taught the holistic approach in caring for patients. It is truer for patients experiencing chronic conditions that can impede healthy emotions. Mindfulness plays an important role in creating and delivering overall healthcare for patients.
Roughly 190 million Americans have a chronic illness. Activities of daily living can be quite a challenge as some have limited capacity physically that may leave the patient socially and emotionally unstable. Aspects such as physical incapacity, emotional feelings like depression, lack of social interaction, isolation and lack of social activities can leave the patient feeling helpless about his or her situation.
Financially speaking, patients may also feel incapacitated to provide financial support for themselves that lead to feelings of helplessness and lack of control over their situation. Around 190 million Americans suffers from one chronic ailment with roughly half of that number having one more. Medical expenses are estimated to be at $2 trillion with $794 billion lost on unemployment or lost productivity on an average annually. This can especially be troubling for breadwinners in the family or those who are living on their monthly wages to cater to their daily needs. This should be enough to look for alternative solutions that are low in cost without diminishing the quality of health care.
What is mindfulness?
It is purposely focusing your attention on the present without judgment. It’s being ‘in the moment’ and truly being there in that space.
An adaptive measure created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) showed that healthcare providers who adapted this method showed promising results in their patients than those without. In this study, patients with chronic illnesses went through a ten-week program showed reduced pain reactions due to drug use, less emotional distress and reported symptoms.
The role of mindfulness in health care
Aside of mindfulness being ‘in the moment’, there’s also an upside to it for the healthcare provider as well. Here are some of the benefits:
- Stress reduction
- Increases working memory
- Increases focus
- Less reactive to stressful situations
- Increases productivity
- More creative
- Develop better human relationships
Nurses and caregivers especially need this to help them with their clients in developing better communication channels and delivering care more thoughtfully instead looking at it as a routine.
Consistent practice of mindfulness in the workplace increases awareness among peers and their environments. Hospitals or other health care facilities make suitable ‘breeding’ place for these negative emotions to thrive (most especially true for patients suffering from chronic illnesses), so it is imperative that healthcare providers are in control of their emotions and are more aware of their patient’s environment and feelings.
Mindfulness actually helps in gaining subtle information about the client’s condition emotionally and physically. Subtle cues that patients exhibit during a treatment or prior one can help in getting insights as to the persona of the client, how they react to certain stimuli or environmental conditions and other factors that will help healthcare provider provide appropriate measures to establish rapport (especially if the patient is new to the facility).
Healthcare providers that practice mindfulness feel more compassion towards their patients because they can empathize with them. Care is pronounced as more authentic because nurses, doctors, caregivers and other health support groups are able to understand their client’s needs better. In this effect, patients are more open to sharing with their healthcare providers their worries and feelings about their health and other factors, therefore, creating a trusting environment moving forward.
As pointed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, caregivers who are genuine to deliver care to their patients will have more ‘presence of the heart’. Caregivers will pause and internalize what the patient is truly going through and not cut them off or try to shove a solution to their current dilemma. Mindfulness provides are deeper healing that goes beyond physical care.
Doctors and Nurses have a part to play
For doctors, mindfulness helps in creating better decisions on patient care, patient perception and overall fulfillment on the job. Having this state of mindfulness will help physicians build better communication and rapport with clients in collaborating with their care, thus increasing the chances of them leading better lives and mutually benefiting from the experience.
And let’s not forget the nurses. Nurses who practice mindfulness are more focused yet less stressed from the daily flurry of activities in the job. Compassion and open communication help both the patient and nurse in creating specific care plans that will help improve the overall health of the client.
Overall, the organization wins as well. When the patient, doctor, and caregivers embrace this method, it’s more likely that communication would flow more accurately which translates to better care given. Patients react more positively to changes in healthcare and are more willing to collaborate with their doctor and caregivers in coming up with a more targeted care plan. Stress levels are lower resulting in a happier patient-doctor-caregiver relationship.
Furthermore, patients are more willing to undergo treatments that doctors prescribe to patients, nurses are more open to communicating with and caring for patients, job satisfaction is higher and healthcare provides a better outlook for patient’s prognosis in general.
Can it be painless?
Pain can be an inevitable part of a patient’s lives especially for patients taking chemotherapy. In a study focused on pain management, a 10-week course on mindfulness meditation has shown considerably favorable results. About 50% of the patients expressed reduction of present pain by 33%.
As patients go through life with a sense of ‘gloom and doom’ with their illness, understanding the emotional aspect of client’s struggle with life, in general, will help healthcare providers give proper assistance. Mindfulness may not be able to help with overall physical health per se but it can open opportunities to gain a sense of self-worth, confidence, and optimism that will lead to healing and for them to gain control over their health. Mindfulness for patients is a powerful resource to help them deal with their medical and emotional conditions.
Sunil is a social entrepreneur working on projects that enhance the quality of life for people. He is passionate about using tech to help the human cause.