General Surgery Resident Receives Grant to Adapt Mindfulness Intervention for Healthcare Providers

Sydney Tan, MD

Burnout among healthcare workers is a problem that general surgery resident Sydney Tan, MD aims to address – and with a recent grant from the UW Center for Healthy Minds, she’ll start doing so. Tan is the recipient of the Center for Healthy Minds’ Center Director Award, which will provide her with $40,000 over the next year to adapt an existing mindfulness-based mobile intervention to address the healthcare context.

Burnout is incredibly costly for both individuals and healthcare systems. “It’s associated with staff attrition and turnover, medical errors in patient care, depression, and suicide,” explained Tan. “While many mindfulness-based interventions have been shown to effectively reduce burnout, there are often barriers to their implementation in the healthcare setting. In addition, existing interventions do not address unique issues that are faced by healthcare workers.”

To address this gap, Tan plans to adapt an existing app, the Healthy Minds Program – ranked “best meditation app” by The New York Times, Healthline, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, and Business Insider and downloaded nearly one million times in 200+ countries – to include content that is specific to the needs and context of the healthcare workforce. The app, developed by the Center for Healthy Minds and the UW’s non-profit Healthy Minds Innovations, focuses on four core components of well-being training: being present and mindful in the moment, feeling connected to those around us, gaining insight into one’s own emotions and reactions, and staying motivated to apply learned skills in everyday life. Using data obtained from interviews with healthcare providers as well as data from an ongoing study assessing the acceptability and feasibility of using the Healthy Minds Program with resident physicians, Tan will identify content that needs to be altered, customize the app interface for healthcare workers, and record new content that is specifically tailored to this population. Once the app has been adapted, Tan and her mentors and colleagues then plan to pilot test it in a sample of health providers.

“If we can develop a scalable intervention to address burnout in clinical settings, this can benefit not only the well-being of healthcare workers but also by extension their patients,” said Tan. “I’m incredibly grateful to the Center for Healthy Minds’ director and my mentor Dr. Richie Davidson, as well as a multidisciplinary team of mentors and collaborators, including Dr. Teri Pipe and Dr. Simon Goldberg at the Center, Dr. Dawn Elfenbein in the Department of Surgery, and Dr. Vincent Minichiello and Dr. Bruce Barrett in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, for their support and guidance on this incredibly important project.”