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Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to integrate mindfulness, as a compassionate pedagogy, into a physician assistant (PA) program and assess its effects on student depression, anxiety, and stress at the conclusion of the first semester. Method: Fifty-five of 60 first-semester students provided consent. Mindfulness instruction and practice began with a six-hour intensive workshop spread over two days during the first week of the semester. This was followed by seven, brief, 10 to15 minute mindfulness practices integrated across one course. Students completed a demographic questionnaire at the beginning of the project and the DASS 21 survey which measures a range of symptoms common to depression, anxiety, and stress at weeks 1 and 16 of the semester. After the course concluded, 10 students were randomly selected from those who had identified as interested in participating in a focus group to discuss their experiences and offer suggestions for improvement. Results: DASS 21 subscale scores revealed no change in depression, anxiety, nor stress. In contrast, the focus group results revealed that student anxiety and stress levels diminished through learning about mindfulness and practicing mindful meditations. Conclusions: The incorporation of mindfulness training was generally well received by first-semester PA students. Students in the focus group reported decreased levels of anxiety and stress, while the DASS 21 revealed no change. The authors suggest that the experience could be strengthened by modifying the workshop material and extending the mindfulness practice across the didactic and clinical years to allow students more opportunities to develop their personal mindfulness practice and integrate it throughout their career.

Author Bio(s)

Catherine K. Sadowski, MHS, PA-C is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Mercer University College of Health Professions Department of Physician Assistant Studies.

Leslie F. Taylor, PT, PhD, MS is an Associate Dean and Professor at Mercer University College of Health Professions.

Erin Sharaf, MA, PA-C is a Lecturer at the Center for Physician Assistant Studies at Johnson & Wales University.

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