To help physician assistant (PA) students cope with the demands of school, PA curriculum designs should consider introducing stress management classes, such as mindfulness and decentering training (MDT), according to study results published in the Journal of Physician Assistant Education.

The MDT stress management program was developed for newly matriculated PA students enrolled in a health professionalism course (n=90). Participants completed a 33-item instrument that included questions related to demographics, stress management practices and validated measures of mindfulness, life satisfaction, and perceived stress.

The study examined intervention effectiveness of the decentering curriculum by comparing mean scores of mindfulness measures from pretest to posttest and from pretest to 4-month follow-up. 

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Students ranged in age from 21 to 40 years; 74.4% were female. All students completed the pretest survey, 86 completed the post-test survey (95.5%), and 83 (92.2%) completed the 4-month follow-up survey. All students had participated in some form of stress reduction therapy including exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, and other. Levels of mindfulness significantly increased from pretest to post-test and from post-test to 4-month follow-up. These changes in the levels of mindfulness found after introducing the MDT intervention were consistent for those with or without prior mindfulness practice.

“The results of the current study, however, suggest that an abbreviated mindfulness training program, one that specifically focuses on decentering, can be effectively implemented in a PA curriculum and lead to significant improvement in mindfulness and, in turn, significantly impact life satisfaction and perceived stress,” the authors concluded.

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Hoover EB, Butaney B, Stoehr JD. Exploring the effectiveness of mindfulness and decentering training in a physician assistant curriculum [published online January 21, 2020]. J Physician Assist Educ. doi: 10.1097/JPA.0000000000000288