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Acad Psychiatry. 2018 Oct;42(5):668-673. doi: 10.1007/s40596-018-0914-6. Epub 2018 Apr 13.

Relational Mindfulness for Psychiatry Residents: a Pilot Course in Empathy Development and Burnout Prevention.

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Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.
Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.



Psychiatry residents face challenges daily that test their capacity to be empathic and attuned to their own self-care. This can have a deleterious impact not only on the residents but also on patient-care. Training to manage the challenges of the work and cultivate stronger patient relationships is needed but often missing in medical education. This study aimed to pilot an empathy training course based in relational mindfulness and assess the impact on burnout and empathy.


Seven first-year psychiatry residents (PGY-1) at an academic medical center in a mid-size city in the southeast participated in an eight-week pilot program created by the authors that integrated relational mindfulness and empathy training. Data were gathered from the seven PGY-1s on measures of burnout and empathy and on their experience of the training.


The PGY-1s demonstrated a downward trend in means on all three burnout subscales and significant improvement on the measure of empathy (fā€‰=ā€‰8.98; pā€‰=ā€‰.02). Overall, the PGY-1s reported an increased awareness of their cognitive and emotional experiences and stated that the skills learned in the program increased their ability to care for themselves, their patients, and their families.


Training in intrapersonal and interpersonal attunement is often overlooked in medical training, leading to resident burnout and negative patient outcomes. An empathy course based in relational mindfulness may be a viable strategy for programs looking to attend to their residents' emotional health and bridge the empathy training gap.


Empathy; Mindfulness; Psychiatry; Residency

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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