Transitioning Mindfully in the Healthcare environment – Management in Practice 2017


Learning how to transition mindfully from one task to another, or one activity to another can make all the difference when you are strapped for time.  Sharing the Transitional Pause with Practice Managers at the Management in Practice 2017 event in London today.  The title of the talk was “when time management is not enough…”. How can we use applied mindfulness to create time and space in the high pressure work environment?


With packed timetables, multiple and endless demands and the hard task of juggling the numbers and managing people, these professionals certainly can benefit from mindfulness. The challenge as always being “I don’t have the time to pause, or breathe, or think ….”.

The three part transitional pause is a small tweak that can have a big impact. This tool has been shared with nursing and medical students at King’s College London, GPs from various practices in London and the South East, psychiatric trainees and prison addictions counsellors.  It is a practical tool that can be completed in just three breaths with practice.

You can try a longer, more formal practice here. But once you get the hang of it, you can start to use it as you transition

  • from home to work (and back again)
  • from one meeting to another
  • from one type of task to another
  • into or out of emotionally challenging scenarios

Part 1 invites you to play within the space of your brain’s default mode network. Allow yourself a micro pause to reflect on what you bring with you into the room, the task or conversation. Getting a handle on this will minimize the impact of any residual emotions you are carrying with you from your last activity. In Part 2 training the attention networks by choosing a single object to focus on. It has to be something with has a “present moment” quality. Something that when you observe it can only be now, now, now. The breath, or the sensations of your bottom on the chair, or your hand as you reach for your coffee or pen. The task is to focus your attention on these sensations, and resist the mind’s urge to wander off, make lists, or go to the past/future.

Having acknowledged your state, and grounded as best you can, Part 3 encourages you to select the mindset that is best utilized for the next task at hand. In the GP setting, knowing when to be in technical mode and when to be in relationship mode is a critical skill. With the increase in medically unexplained symptoms, chronic enduring mental health conditions and the aging population, the latter is more important than ever in modern medicine. For those who’s conditions have met the limit of the medical model, the healthcare provider needs to select a relating, coaching style to build self-efficacy and self-management.

If you are not sure what to do, the 3Cs approach can help. Would it be more helpful to set your intention to be

a) more curious (ask another question, check your assumptions and bias more thoroughly)

b) more courageous (ask a more difficult or challenging question, explore what you really would say if you felt truly safe to do so?)

c) more compassionate (ideally to yourself first as from this flows all your capacity to be really present and available for your patients/team/family).

Find out more about Compassion in Practice and what the NHS is doing to support innovation and best practice in this area. They use a 6Cs model: care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment.  You can also get inspired by some of the award winning best practice.


Small acts of compassion can make a bit difference.  This means compassion for how we are feeling, reacting, or responding to this challenging (but also immensely rewarding) work. Part of this piece of work may initially require a compassionate and non-reactive look at the reality of the workplace environment. Where are there places that practices DO have some choice or “wiggle room” to do something different? What processes ARE under their control? What would a general practice environment be like if staff showed themselves the same compassion they show for others? What stops this occurring, given the evidence is so clear on this point?


For more information on how the Transitional Pause can help to create more space and time in your organization, contact