Effectiveness and feasibility of a mindful leadership course for medical specialists: a pilot study

BMC Med Educ. 2020 Feb 4;20(1):34. doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-1948-5.


Background: Medical specialists experience high levels of stress. This has an impact on their well-being, but also on quality of their leadership. In the current mixed method study, the feasibility and effectiveness of a course Mindful Leadership on burnout, well-being and leadership skills of medical specialists were evaluated.

Methods: This is a non-randomized controlled pre-post evaluation using self-report questionnaires administered at 3 months before (control period), start and end of the training (intervention period). Burn-out symptoms, well-being and leadership skills were assessed with self-report questionnaires. Semi-structured interviews were used to qualitatively evaluate barriers and facilitators for completion of the course.

Results: From September 2014 to June 2016, 52 medical specialists participated in the study. Of these, 48 (92%) completed the course. Compared to the control period, the intervention period resulted in greater reductions of depersonalization (mean difference = - 1.2, p = 0.06), worry (mean difference = - 4.3, p = 0.04) and negative work-home interference (mean difference = - 0.2, p = 0.03), and greater improvements of mindfulness (mean difference = 0.5, p = 0.04), life satisfaction (mean difference = 0.4, p = 0.01) and self-reported ethical leadership (mean difference = 0.1, p = 0.02). Effect sizes were generally small to medium (0.3 to 0.6) and large for life satisfaction (0.8). Appreciation of course elements was a major facilitator and the difficulty of finding time a major barrier for participating.

Conclusions: A 'Mindful Leadership' course was feasible and not only effective in reducing burnout symptoms and improving well-being, but also appeared to have potential for improving leadership skills. Mindful leadership courses could be a valuable part of ongoing professional development programs for medical specialists.

Keywords: Burnout; Continuing medical education; Feasibility; Leadership; Medical specialists; Mindfulness; Well-being.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Male
  • Medicine
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness / education*
  • Netherlands
  • Pilot Projects