Epstein presents a model for the medical community to offer the best possible care by addressing the four foundations of mindfulness – attention, curiosity, beginner’s mind, and presence.
“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,” said Epstein.
Tapping into the “secret” of mindfulness, the physician and educator guides readers with tools and techniques that provide quality care in accordance with what really matters – mindfulness. Epstein also highlights “a world of medicine in crises,” by describing doctors and patients in a world disillusioned by a splintered health care system. According to Dr. Epstein, “The commodification of health care has shifted doctors’ focus away from the healing of patients to the bottom line.”
Epstein explains that physicians are now “looking inward” to increase their ability to offer high-quality care.
“They are seeing how they, as doctors, have the power to transform and humanize the practice of medicine and how patients can be better consumers of health care, building stronger relationships with their physicians, and identifying those who can provide the care they need,” he said.
“Attending: Medicine, Mindfulness and Humanity” offers a bird’s eye view into the what happens in the operating room while giving readers an outline to distinguish the difference between a surgeon and a “master” [surgeon] and the role mindfulness plays between the two. “His [the master] expertise resided in his exquisite moment-to-moment awareness: he was able to present and to bring what was needed to each moment,” he writes.
Epstein also noted the importance of a physician’s sense of mindfulness outside of the operating room listing thoughtfulness, insight and curiosity into the human condition as essential components. Dr. Epstein also identifies the importance and benefits of being mindful in all work circumstances.“Approaching medicine and all work mindfully requires and builds grit and resilience,” he says.
This work has proven to be a blueprint for doctors, patients, and their families to “thoughtfully” cooperate and work together to provide the very best medical care. The book is best summarized by Epstein’s reason for including “attending” within the title.
Epstein writes, “In medicine, the senior physician responsible for a patient’s care is called the attending physician or just ‘the attending.’ The attending’s responsibility is to direct the clinical team’s attention to the most important things, take charge, make the patient feel attended to and provide attentive care. Attending means showing up, being present, listening and accompanying patients when it matters most. Attending is also a moral imperative: by being attentive, doctors not only provide the best care, they also honor each other’s humanity.”
Ronald Epstein is a practicing family physician, a professor of medicine, psychiatry, and oncology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry where he serves as the Director of the Center for Communication and Disparities Research and codirects Mindful Practice Programs. Accolades include being named as one of America’s Best Doctors yearly since 1998 by the U.S. News & World Report.