Saki Santorelli , the director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, visited RCSI this week and spoke about the practice of mindfulness and his clinics research  on using mindfulness with patients for healing and with health professionals as a means to foster patient centred focus and attention as part of a caring healthful relationship.

Some research studies were mentioned and Ron Epstein’s work towards a mindfulness approach in medicine was highlighted. Epstein started introducing low key initiatives in Rochester medical school (1970’s I think) and since then this approach has grown and now influences how students and clinicians are taught to communicate and care for patients. The approach which integrated mindfulness has become more embedded into learning and teachings of medics over the years.

Santorelli also spoke about the vital components of mindfulness and that an understanding of self leads to understanding of others. Towards this aim I am really looking forward to introducing reflective practice to students at the Institute of Leadership in the coming weeks with the intention of expanding self awareness.

Towards the end of the seminar a discussion ensued about outcome based education where medical students enter into a curriculum that requires them to achieve a set of competencies.  I think that outcome based education can work against an approach or attitude of lifelong learning, students think that a competency is achieved and then move onto achieve the next set of skills. Santorelli described medicine as being ‘all about the relational’, that medicine is a dialogue between patient and health professional.  What I understand from this is that this caring relationship is underpinned by  good communication and listening from the health professional, and the ability of the health professional ‘to be with’ and listen to the patient in that space and time. While communication is regarded as a competency for medics I think that a mindful approach to communication can expand one’s ability to listen and communicate. I really think that mindfulness is a practice that can encourage a life-long approach to learning, to thinking about one’s own practice and enable professionals to continuously improve practice.  Perhaps this can lead to the opening up for richer awareness of self and others.

Saki also mentioned some interesting resources:

His book : Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine

A Monthly news bulletin “Mindfulness Research Monthly

Journal: ‘Mindfulness

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About Muireann O'Keeffe

I am an educational developer currently working at DCU. I have a passion for researching and evaluating technology that can support and enhance learning. In the past I have taught on Masters programmes (Msc Applied elearning & Postgraduate Diploma in Third level Learning and Teaching) as well as Leadership development programmes.
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