Does practicing mindfulness lead to better school results?

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The benefits of mindfulness are often hailed for helping students manage their competing professional and personal commitments in a healthy, balanced way that supports better learning. Medical students are no different, and many are encouraged to incorporate mindfulness into their busy lives.

However, given the prevailing culture of evidence-based practice that defines modern medicine, a final-year medical student at Monash wondered if there was any evidence to support the use of evidence-based interventions. mindfulness (MBI) among his peer group.

Roshini Lekamge completed her intensive six-week internship with our Medical Education Research and Quality (MERQ) team, which oversaw her first foray into the world of medical research – a systematic review of the subject, recently published in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine.

Roshini says, “The ability to transfer formal mindfulness training skills to everyday life experiences would be extremely valuable. There is already good evidence that mindfulness interventions can lessen the symptoms of mental health issues and relieve physical pain. But I knew anecdotally that the practice of mindfulness was encouraged for students in a lot of medical programs, and I wondered if it actually conferred specific academic improvements.

Led by supervisors Professor Dragan Ilic, Associate Professor Danijela Gasevic and Dr. Nazmul Karim, she quickly discovered a study conducted in 2017, which found that 79% of American medical training programs actually incorporated mindfulness activities. .

“There is also a large body of research showing that medical students suffer from burnout, depression and anxiety at high rates compared to many other university students. By reducing stress, some mindfulness advocates suggest academic performance could be improved. The appeal of this theory is obvious – but to be good practitioners of evidence-based medicine, we must seek to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Roshini searched standard medical databases for randomized controlled trials that examined the effects on academic performance of MBIs among medicine, nursing, and allied health. Of 267 initial results of its search terms, only two studies were eligible for inclusion, with a cumulative total of 100 participants.

“With such sparse evidence, it is difficult to draw many conclusions other than further research is needed. This certainly doesn’t negate the positive impacts that mindfulness can actually have on academic performance, it’s just that we found a big gap in the literature here.

“The ability to deploy an MBI program when you are convinced of the benefits it will confer would be great. Reducing stress during the study period could enable more competent healthcare professionals to enter the labor market. It can also act in a feedback loop, as academic performance is often cited as a major stressor in this group. Supporting them in their academic abilities could further reduce personal stress.

Senior Supervisor and Head of MERQ, Professor Dragan Ilic, said, “I was truly impressed with the volume of papers Roshini reviewed and the work she did to produce them in such a short time. My team is always looking for ways to improve teaching techniques and optimize the learning experience for our students, and this type of project is extremely helpful. »

“I agree with Roshini – this is an area of ​​enormous potential, and it will be exciting to see how it develops over the next few years as more and more evidence is found to better support these initiatives.”

Following her positive experience with the SIP program in 2019, Roshini plans to continue her research adventure and begin a PhD with SPHPM next year. She hopes to explore what a mental health program in Australian schools might look like, under the supervision of Professor Dragan Ilic.


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