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Warwick Medical School uses mindfulness training to support student wellbeing

Mindfulness is a state of being that is cultivated through regular practise and guidance and is an on-going journey of developing awareness, presence and clarity. It has been found in a number of systematic reviews to be associated with a range of aspects of psychological wellbeing, including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression, and less emotional reactivity, both in adults and in children.

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A key component of the degree programme at Warwick is a module in Wellbeing and Mindfulness which is universal for all first year students. Staff at Warwick Medical School (WMS) continue to innovate and develop the course and have recently taken advice from Dr Craig Hassed, Monash University, who is one of the pioneers of mindfulness teaching in medicine. Dr Hassed visited Warwick last summer through the Monash Warwick Alliance, an award winning international partnership between Monash University and the University of Warwick.

Dr Anne-Marie Chilton, Principal Clinical Teaching Fellow, WMS said:

Dr Hassed highlighted the importance of expert facilitators in the delivery of mindfulness. This year we have been able to use his advice to develop and implement a new 6-week training programme to increase the experience of existing facilitators and to train new staff. We now have a ‘buddy system’ in place where our newer facilitators are working with our expert facilitators for the first year so that they are fully supported as they continue to develop their expertise. Dr Hassed’s advice has been very valuable in shaping this course and in highlighting where we should focus our efforts to improve the student experience”.

craig_hassed_6.jpgResearchers at WMS have found a positive link amongst Warwick students between the practice of mindfulness and wellbeing, as Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, Public Health, WMS explains,

Research into medical training often highlights relatively high rates of burnout amongst both medical students and doctors. We know that many of our students experience a drop in wellbeing on entering our accelerated course, however those who practice mindfulness do not experience this drop. This leads us to conclude that mindfulness could be a valuable tool in protecting our students from distress and burnout.”

Wellbeing and mindfulness have also developed in other areas of the medical school. There is a voluntary 'Student Selected Component' (SSC) on mindfulness, and the students have created 'The Mindfulness Society' through which they organize regular retreats and speakers of international renown.

Over 90% of students studying medicine at WMS have reported finding the mindfulness experience helpful, and many commented that they appreciated the focus on wellbeing in their medical degree.

Níall Lally, 3rd year undergraduate MB ChB student at Warwick, said:

Would you take a pill that improved your attention, sleep, efficiency, kindness and increased your resilience to stress? For me, meditation offers all of these benefits and more in a side effect and cost free portable package. Since coming to WMS, I have started to meditate on a daily basis and have found the practice to be incredibly beneficial to both my wellbeing and my academic attainment. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the integral role meditation plays within the medical school curriculum at Warwick.”

If you are interested in finding out more about Mindfulness visit our Mindfulness Research Network webpage.