Future doctors look within
27 May 2009
First-year medicine students are learning how to enhance their health through the use of techniques such as meditation.
The Health Enhancement Program teaches students mindfulness-based stress management as a way of integrating knowledge and enhancing personal wellbeing, performance and clinical skills.
Monash is one of only a handful of universities world-wide to have meditation as part of its core curriculum.
Dr Craig Hassed, who developed the program, said the physical and psychological wellbeing of medicine students, even in the high stress period before exams has significantly improved.
"Many students assume stress is the only valid driver of performance, but our findings suggest otherwise," Dr Hassed said.
"This course teaches students that self-care is not selfish. A doctor who is not coping well or is less mindful is many times more likely to make clinical errors. Therefore, the doctor's self-care and mindfulness training are just as important for the wellbeing of the patient as they are for the doctor."
The students' progress was followed to determine how learning these new skills impacted upon their lifestyles and roles as doctors.
Based on their positive experience, many students chose a clinical yoga elective taught by Philip Stevens that shows them how to enhance their health through the use of yoga techniques, including meditation, yoga postures, relaxation, breathing techniques as well as mindfulness.
"As well as teaching the students the techniques for themselves, we also cover what neurophysiological effects these techniques have on the heart, brain and autonomic nervous system for use in clinical applications," Mr Stevens said.
"The class is extremely popular – we hope that they will become better and healthier doctors as a result of learning these skills."