ATTENDING: Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity by Dr. Ronald Epstein, a Professor of Family Medicine, Psychiatry, and Oncology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. The first book for the general public about mindfulness in medical practice and richly illustrated with real-life stories of patients and doctors, ATTENDING is a groundbreaking, intimate exploration of how doctors approach real-world medical cases and patients—and the difference that conscientiousness can make on patient outcomes—from the foremost expert in the field. As a third-year Harvard Medical student, Epstein watched an experienced surgeon fail to notice his 18-year-old patient’s kidney turning an ominous shade of blue during surgery. In that same rotation, Epstein was awestruck by another surgeon’s ability to slow down and shift from autopilot to deliberate precision during a complicated procedure. The difference between these two doctors left a lasting impression on Epstein and set the stage for his life’s work—to identify the qualities and habits that distinguish masterful doctors from those who are merely competent. The secret, he learned, was mindfulness. When doctors approach care mindfully, they are open to possibility: less likely to let diagnoses define their patients, and more likely to consider alternate perspectives and avoid fatal mistakes. They are more likely to practice with compassion—attending to their patients’ needs and emotions—and self-compassion—attending to their own emotions to avoid burning out. Approaching medicine—and all work—mindfully both requires and builds grit and resilience. In today’s commodified healthcare system, with physician burnout at an all-time high, Epstein’s ATTENDING offers a model for doctors, patients, and their families to approach medical decisions thoughtfully and collaborate to achieve the best that medical care can offer.
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