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The need for incorporating emotional intelligence and mindfulness training in modern medical education
  1. Hakeem J Shakir1,2,
  2. Chelsea L Recor1,2,
  3. Daniel W Sheehan3,
  4. Renée M Reynolds1,2,4
  1. 1 Department of Neurosurgery, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA
  2. 2 Department of Neurosurgery, Buffalo General Medical Center, Buffalo, NY, USA
  3. 3 Department of Pediatrics, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA
  4. 4 Department of Neurosurgery, Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo at Kaleida Health, Buffalo, NY, USA
  1. Correspondence to Renée M Reynolds, University at Buffalo Neurosurgery, 100 High Street, Suite B4, Buffalo 14203, NY, USA; rreynolds{at}ubns.com, editorial{at}ubns.com

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Although the study of medicine and the tradition of medical students gaining clinical experience on hospital wards have not significantly changed over the years, the experience of physicians practicing in the current climate has changed dramatically. Physicians are confronted with increasing regulations aimed at improving quality of care and are often overwhelmed by their position in a tug-of-war between administrators, staff, colleagues and most importantly, patients. With more than half of the US physicians experiencing professional burnout, questions arise regarding their mental health and work-life balance. Blendon et al 1 reported an overall decline in the public’s confidence and trust in physicians, which may be explained by cultural changes as well as displeasure with medical leaders’ responses to healthcare needs. As the next generation of physicians emerges in this evolving healthcare environment, adaptation to new practices and regulations will be imperative. Emotional intelligence (EI) and mindfulness provide a possible solution to the struggles physicians will invariably face.

The term EI, which refers to a person’s ability to recognise, discriminate and label their own emotions and those of others, was coined by Salovey and Mayer and popularised by Goleman.2 3 Mindfulness is the process by which an individual actively observes his or her thoughts and feelings without judgement.4 With foundations in Eastern meditation, mindfulness is now an accepted method of stress reduction in Western culture.4

The practice and employment of synergistic EI and mindfulness is grossly lacking from medical school curricula, postgraduate training and continuing medical education (CME) programmes. The systemic deficiency of both EI and mindfulness in healthcare has become more apparent as studies have demonstrated high burnout rates,5 increasing public mistrust in physicians1 and disheartening data indicating that 300–400 physicians commit suicide each year; a surprising figure that equals approximately one physician per day.6

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