Mindfulness can make a huge difference to pharmacy practice, says Dr Craig Hassed, senior lecturer, department of general practice, Monash University.
Monash University pharmacy and medicine students undertake a mandatory mindfulness program as part of the core curriculum as research shows mindfulness reduces adverse events.
The course is spearheaded by Dr Hassed, who says it has demonstrable results in reducing medication errors in pharmacy and medicine. He spoke on the subject at the recent Friendlies Conference at Glenelg.
Dr Hassed stressed that mindfulness can make a huge difference to pharmacy practice.
For example, more than 60% of medication errors are due to staff being forgetful, stressed or tired; or ‘multi-tasking’ and being interrupted or distracted.
Dr Hassed says that mindfulness is a useful strategy to help improve pharmacy practice.
He says it could reduce diagnostic errors; enhance physical and mental health; enhance decision making, empathy; and reduce burnout and fatigue.
“Mindful reflective practice could minimise some of the individual factors that lead to medication errors and represent and important element in pre-registration education and continual professional development for pharmacists,” he told delegates.
Dr Hassed said that mindfulness training improves activity in areas associated with ‘executive fuctioning’, including attention control, self-regulation, sensory processing, and regulation of the stress response.
“[Also] the regular practice of meditation may have neuroprotective effects, and reduce the cognitive decline associated with ageing.
He said there are multiple applications of mindfulness.
These include mental health for depression, anxiety, panic disorder, sleep, stress, eating disorders, ADHD, and addiction; neuroscience: such as functional changes in the brain due to dementia and cognitive decline; clinical, including pain and weight management; performance, such as sports’ training; education; and relationship and spiritual benefits.
Pharmacists and mental health
The results of a study of almost 1200 self-employed pharmacists demonstrated that pharmacists may benefit from developing mindfulness strategies, given that a GHQ study showed that psychological distress was almost 50%, and almost 15% of respondents admitted to alcohol and smoking.
Pharmacy students now undertake a six-week mindfulness program as part of their core curriculum.
Dr Hassed said that for students the course improves students’ wellbeing, so they were able to perform better.
He said mindfulness is essential and underpins self-monitoring.
“Mindful practice is conscious and intentional attentiveness to the present situation: the raw sensations, thoughts, emotions, as well as interpretations, and judgments.
“Basically, it is about paying attention to the present moment with an attitude of openness, curiosity and openness.”
This is the opposite too being on ‘automatic pilot’ and this when we make many mistakes.
He stressed that research demonstrates that there are biological changes resulting from ‘mind wandering’. But mindfulness can stem this flow.
He says studies demonstrate that the greater level of mind wandering increases the level of telomere shortening, which is a DNA biological marker of age.
“Mindfullness meditation may slow genetic ageing and enhance genetic repair… we propose that some forms of meditation may have salutary effects on telomore length by reducing cognitive stress, and stress arousal, and increasing positive states of mind—and hormonal factors that may promote telomere maintenance,” said Dr Hassed.
To sign up for a six week free online course on mindfulness from Monash (which begins today) go here.