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How can caretakers care for themselves? These hospitals might have figured it out.

Gemma Hartley

Practicing mindfulness can go a long way, and one health organization that has seen its benefits firsthand also wants to share it with others.

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For years, Dignity Health has incorporated a practice of adding a “reflective pause” to the everyday experience throughout the organization. Pause. Reflect. Heal. These words can be seen on placards throughout the hospitals to remind those caring for patients to pause and reflect before taking on the task of healing. This message is intended to encourage employees to breathe deeply and become aware of the present. The team practices incorporating a moment of reflective pause before staff meetings and have since become widespread throughout all transitions in the hospitals. “We’re working with people in some of the most vulnerable times in their lives,” explains Christina Fernandez, SVP of mission integration and spirituality at Dignity Health. “It’s very meaningful work and people come to the work with an expectation that they’ll connect with that meaning.” Connecting with meaning can be especially valuable in the healthcare profession because the nature of the work can be so intimate and vital. Still, Fernandez says, feeling connected still requires practice and time. For work that is as demanding as healthcare, returning to the present moment is key. “You need to have a sense of being mindful, of being grounded and anchored in the present in your whole person to really appreciate the meaning that’s before you,” Fernandez says. Encouraging a reflective pause is an excellent first step; the organization has since decided to take this practice a bit deeper and explore additional opportunities to practice a mindfulness.

The recent #Take2Mins campaign was inspired by an internal Dignity Health initiative: a month-long challenge (which has since turned into a regular way of life) to encourage employees to incorporate a couple minutes of mindfulness meditation and reflective pauses into their days. The #Take2Mins campaign was designed as an extension of this initiative to encourage community members outside of hospital walls to do the same. Nearly 95 percent of participants from Dignity Health’s poll of over a thousand Americans reported health and mood benefits, and many were surprised to find that such a quick practice could have impacts as profound as improved sleep (61 percent) and increased happiness (58 percent). After piloting the reflective pause program with their employees, Dignity Health is working to incorporate mindfulness into the lives of their patients and communities as well. The organization offers tips for a mindfulness practice across their social media channels, encouraging people to start wherever they are with meditation and see the benefits for themselves. “Take two minutes a day to pause,” says Fernandez. “It can make a difference in your awareness, allow you to come into your body, and come into the moment. Just two minutes a day can open the door to a greater experience of mindfulness.”

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