By Rachel Hatteberg Walt, MS. CCC-SLP, Meditation Instructor, Reiki Master

STOP!! Put your hand on your heart. Take a big inhalation through your nose from your belly to your chest and now sigh it out to a longer count than you inhaled. Do that 2 more times. Notice how your body feels. Where is it tight? Have any feelings coming up? What thoughts are going through your head?

Congrats! You just engaged in mindfulness! Mindfulness is the ability to bring focused awareness on the present moment using your senses. As simple and as quick as this can be, don’t be tempted to write it off as a woo-woo trick or too simple to work. It is a true research-backed powerhouse technique that you can use to help you (and your patients!) with symptoms of stress, anxiety, burnout.

Maybe you haven’t even stopped long enough to ask yourself if you are experiencing burnout, but it is likely that about half of you are. Almost 50% of SLP’s are showing symptoms of burnout like exhaustion (physical and emotional), depersonalization, anxiety/depression, impaired cognitive function, self-doubt, and/or cynicism, according to an article in the Pakistan Biomed Journal.

Even if you aren’t showing the signs of burnout, it’s likely you joined the speech-language pathology world because you are an empathetic and compassionate person wanting to help people. I wouldn’t blame you if you feel frustrated with some of the barriers to operating from that place that are so common in our modern healthcare world, perpetuating the burnout epidemic. From productivity goals, to insurance mandates, to rushed and stressed physicians- not to mention any personal things going on, it’s super easy to go on autopilot and coast at the least, preventing your patients from your full potential and theirs- and possibly make medical errors at the worst.

Suffering from burnout doesn’t feel good and separates you from your compassionate nature. It also negatively impacts patient care. Burnout has been linked to lack of compassionate care, increased medical errors, exacerbation of patients’ symptoms and increased cost of care. So how do you keep your compassionate intentions in this kind of environment?

Now, before you go get your token “free-pizza-supporting healthcare-workers” slice in the conference room or run off to your next patient, I’m going to give you easier way to beat the burn, enhance your patient’s experience, support them in exceeding their goals, and help you tap back into your compassionate roots- all in just a few potent steps.

There are thousands of peer-reviewed research articles supporting the use of mindfulness techniques for personal and rehabilitation purposes. Literally changes in the brain like increased gray matter, gamma brain waves, cortical thickness resulting in improved decision-making, selective attention, learning and sustained attention have been found. In addition to those benefits, there are more such as decreased blood pressure, heart rate and pain as well as improved symptoms of ADHD, immune system functioning, increased empathy and compassion.

Below are a few mindfulness techniques to add into your sessions and see these benefits:

  1. Alone before your day or at the top of your session with your patient as appropriate, breathe in for the count of 4 and out for the count of 8
  2. Mindful eating during dysphagia sessions (or lunch if you are practicing this yourself) by noticing and describing the sights, sounds, texture, tastes of the food with full attention
  3. Body Scan- by putting your attention on your feet, legs, torso, chest, throat, head, then space in the room.

And, if you are intrigued and want to learn more, join us for a Live Webinar: Implementing Mindfulness and Compassion into SLP Practice: A Guide to Improving Patient Care and Clinician Satisfaction, on May 10, 2023 4-5 pm (Eastern). Get hands-on help with these tools, learn the research around them and how to integrate them into your practice.

It is simple math:

Burnout  + Mindfulness = Compassionate Care

Totaling in Better Patient Outcomes, Happier Clinicians, and Healthier Facility Bottom Lines

I hope to see you on the Webinar!