Mindfulness app may help address physician anxiety, burnout

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As novel coronavirus cases continue to increase across the nation, health professionals on the front lines face frightening realities, rising anxiety, and the very real potential for burnout.

“Health care providers are under tremendous pressure right now,” said Dr. Jud Brewer, director of research and innovation at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University. “Physician burnout was already reaching ‘epidemic’ proportions before this pandemic hit.” 

In fact, a 2014 study found that nearly half of all physicians experience significant symptoms of burnout, and further research suggests that the risk is particularly high for those who perceive that they aren’t in control of what unfolds around them. Theoretically, this perceived lack of control leads to anxiety, which can then lead to burnout.

Brewer and his colleagues worked to address these conditions with a smartphone-app mindfulness training program called Unwinding Anxiety. They examined the app’s effects in a pilot study of 34 physicians, which appeared in JMIR mHealth and uHealth on Wednesday, April 1. The study was the first to test the effectiveness of an app-based mindfulness program as an intervention for anxiety in physicians. READ MORE