Mindfulness Meditation for Medical Students: a Student-Led Initiative to Expose Medical Students to Mindfulness Practices

  • Periel ShapiroEmail author
  • Robert Lebeau
  • Anthony Tobia
Original Research



To explore the feasibility and impact of a brief mindfulness training for medical students and to learn about the perceptions, expectations, and problems associated with mindfulness practices in the context of medicine and medical education.


Forty-one medical students were randomized into either an introductory mindfulness class only or an introductory mindfulness class plus an 8-week mindfulness meditation course. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from both groups after the introductory class and again after the full course. Qualitative data was subject to close iterative reading as part of a grounded-theory-guided content analysis, generating a list of codes which were then assigned to statements and arranged into overarching themes.


Mindfulness and awareness were negatively correlated with stress and depression. Students who took the full mindfulness course emerged with a greater familiarity with and willingness to utilize mindfulness modalities. There was no significant difference on wellness outcomes between the introductory-course-only group and the full-mindfulness-course group. Thematic analysis revealed student aspirations for a mindfulness alternative in medicine and medical education but also a recognition of the challenges inherent in applying such an alternative.


A mindfulness course for medical students is feasible and has potential as a wellness and educational initiative. Shorter duration mindfulness interventions may increase accessibility without significantly reducing benefit. Interpretation of overarching themes derived from the grounded theory analysis illuminates the subject of mindfulness for medical students from the perspective of students themselves.


Mindfulness Meditation Student wellness Integrative medicine Qualitative data 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


  1. 1.
    Rotenstein LS, Ramos MA, Torre M, Segal JB, Peluso MJ, Guille C, et al. Prevalence of depression, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation among medical students. JAMA. 2016;316(21):2214–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Jaini PA, Lee JS-H. A review of 21st century utility of a biopsychosocial model in United States medical school education. J Lifestyle Med. 2015;5(2):49–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Kabat-Zinn J. Wherever you go there you are. Harper Collins: Hyperion; 1994.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Black DS. A brief definition of mindfulness. Mindfulness Research Guide; 2011.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Royuela-Colomer E, Calvete E. Mindfulness facets and depression in adolescents: rumination as a mediator. Mindfulness. 2016;7(5):1092–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Chesin MS, Benjamin-Phillips CA, Keilp J, et al. Improvements in executive attention, rumination, cognitive reactivity, and mindfulness among high–suicide risk patients participating in adjunct mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: preliminary finding. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2016;22(8).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Svendsen JL, Kvernenes KV, Wiker AS, Dundas I. Mechanisms of mindfulness: rumination and self-compassion. Nordic Psychology. 2017;69(2):71–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Shapiro SL, Schwartz GE, Bonner G. Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students. J Behav Med. 1998;21(6):581–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lo K, Waterland J, Todd P, Gupta T, Bearman M, Hassed C, et al. Group interventions to promote mental health in health professional education: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Adv Health Sci Educ. 2018;23:413–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Mcconville J, McAleer R, Hahne A, et al. Mindfulness training for health profession students—the effect of mindfulness training on psychological well-being, learning and clinical performance of health professional students: a systematic review of randomized and non-randomized controlled trials. EXPLORE. 2017;13(1):26–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Dobkin PL, Hassed CS. Mindful medical practitioners: a guide for clinicians and educators. Springer: Springer Nature; 2016.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Greeson JM, Toohey MJ, Pearce MJ, et al. An adapted, four-week mind–body skills group for medical students: reducing stress, increasing mindfulness, and enhancing self-care. EXPLORE. 2015;11:186–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Halland E, de Vibe M, Solhaug I, et al. Mindfulness training improves problem-focused coping in psychology and medical students: results from a randomized controlled trial. Coll Stud J. 2015;49(3):387–98.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Peterson CD, Rdesinski RE, Biagioli FE, et al. Medical student perceptions of a behavioural and social science curriculum. Ment Health Fam Med. 2011;8(4):215–26.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Aherne D, Farrant K, Hickey L, Hickey E, McGrath L, McGrath D. Mindfulness based stress reduction for medical students: optimising student satisfaction and engagement. BMC Med Educ. 2016;16:209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Danilewitz M, Bradwejn J, Koszycki D, et al. A pilot feasibility study of a peer-led mindfulness program for medical students. Can Med Educ J. 2016;7(1):31–7.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Astin JA, Goddard TG, Forys K, et al. Barriers to the integration of mind-body medicine: perceptions of physicians, residents, and medical students. EXPLORE. 2005;1(4):278–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    McKenzie SP, Hassed CS, Gear JL, et al. Medical and psychology students’ knowledge of and attitudes towards mindfulness as a clinical intervention. EXPLORE. 2012;8(6):360–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Stewart-Brown S, Walker T, Janjua S, et al. Experiences with a universal mindfulness and wellbeing programme at a UK medical school. Health Educ. 2017;118(4):304–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Kabat-Zinn J. An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: theoretical considerations and preliminary results. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 1982;4:33–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Phang CK, Mukhtar F, Ibrahim N, et al. Effects of a brief mindfulness-based intervention program for stress management among medical students: the Mindful-Gym randomized controlled study 2015;20(5):115–1134.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Romcevich LE, Reed S, Flowers SR, et al. Mind-body skills training for resident wellness: a pilot study of a brief mindfulness intervention 2018;5.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Cavanagh K, Strauss C, Lewis F, et al. A randomised controlled trial of a brief online mindfulness-based intervention in a non-clinical population: replication and extension 2018;34(2):118–129.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Yusufov M, Nicoloro-SantaBarbara J, Grey NE, et al. Meta-analytic evaluation of stress reduction interventions for undergraduate and graduate students.2018.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    deVibe M, Solhaug I, Rosenvinge JH, et al. Six-year positive effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on mindfulness, coping and well-being in medical and psychology students; results from a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One 2018;13(4).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kennedy TJ, Lingard LA. Making sense of grounded theory in medical education. Med Educ. 2006;40:101–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Miller E, Balmer D, Hermann N, Graham G, Charon R. Sounding narrative medicine. Acad Med. 2014;89(2):335–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Slavin SJ, Schindler DL, Chibnall JT. Medical student mental health 3.0: improving student wellness through curricular changes. Acad Med. 2014;89(4):573–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Baer R, Crane C, Miller E, et al. Doing no harm in mindfulness-based programs: conceptual issues and empirical findings. Clin Psychol Rev. 2019;S0272-7358(18):30127–2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Association of Medical Science Educators 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolPiscatawayUSA

Personalised recommendations