Nirali Chauhan, MPH; Syeda Akila Ally, BA; Ange Uwimana, BA
Medical students have higher perceived stress than other age-controlled students, and are subsequently at a higher risk of experiencing burnout as healthcare workers in the future. Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga-based interventions have been shown to decrease anxiety, improve mood, self-efficacy, and empathy in health professions students, and can improve brain areas related to focus. The purpose of this study was to incorporate interactive modules during preclinical curricula in order to increase access to wellness resources and help combat stress among preclinical medical students.
Student members of the Wellness and Resilience Committee at an urban medical school implemented two sessions of an interactive wellness workshop across its three campuses. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, one session was conducted virtually. A certified meditation instructor and medical student (NC) designed a 110-minute module aimed to teach learners about (1) the science behind mindfulness, meditation, and yoga; (2) short active practices to incorporate into everyday life, such as breathwork, somatosensory exercises, and yoga asana; and (3) the emerging research about the benefits of such practices for healthcare professionals. The sessions included brief didactic content, a facilitated discussion, and active practice of techniques. Praxis centered around values of normalizing different experiences and openly sharing in a safe, inclusive space. Voluntary and anonymous 11-item online surveys assessed the learners' pre-and post-session perceptions of their individual stress and focus levels on a scale of 1 to 10 and captured qualitative feedback. Results were analyzed using grounded theory methodology and descriptive statistics. Proposals for these sessions were submitted to, and approved by a tri-campus committee of faculty and staff who lead a longitudinal interdisciplinary colloquia curriculum for preclinical students. Students select 6 sessions to attend per semester. The colloquia facilitate self-directed learning and incorporate independent discovery learning pedagogy into preclinical medical education.
41 students across three campuses attended the two sessions. 80% were first-years. Chicago campus: 19 M1s and 8 M2s Rockford campus: 5 M1s Peoria campus: 9 M1s Of the 40 students that responded to the question, 100% reported believing that the session met its learning objectives. Of those who completed the anonymous and voluntary post-session survey (n=26), on average, students were 2.5 points less stressed (6 to 3.5) and 1.5 points more focused (5.4 to 6.9) after participating in the session. Learners reported that the opportunity to practice teachings was the most effective aspect of the session. Few students reported continuing to practice the techniques outside of the sessions. Some students reflected that they might utilize this knowledge for their future patients' mental well-being.
This intervention indicates the effectiveness of interactive single-session interventions centered around empowering students with wellness resources. Interactive modules can serve as a valuable resource for learners as they navigate the stressors of their training, even during the covid-19 pandemic. Student-designed and led workshops can be realistically implemented within existing medical school curricula, and can be translated to other institutions. Furthermore, this study demonstrates a feasible way to incorporate students' lived experiences and knowledge outside of medicine into medical education.
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