The first book for the general public about mindfulness and medical practice, a groundbreaking, intimate exploration of how doctors think and what matters most — safe, effective, patient-centered, compassionate care — from the foremost expert in the field.
As a third-year Harvard Medical School student doing a clinical rotation in surgery, Ronald Epstein watched an error unfold: an experienced surgeon failed to notice his patient’s kidney turning an ominous shade of blue. In that same rotation, Epstein was awestruck by another surgeon’s ability to avert an impending disaster, slowing down from autopilot to intentionality. The difference between these two doctors left a lasting impression on Epstein and set the stage for his life’s work — to identify the qualities and habits that distinguish masterful doctors from those who are merely competent. The secret, he learned, was mindfulness.
In Attending, his first book, Dr. Epstein builds on his world-renowned, innovative programs in mindful practice and uses gripping and deeply human clinical stories to give patients a language to describe what they value most in health care and to outline a road map for doctors and other health care professionals to refocus their approach to medicine. Drawing on his clinical experiences and current research, and exploring four foundations of mindfulness — Attention, Curiosity, Beginner’s Mind, and Presence — Dr. Epstein introduces a revolutionary concept: by looking inward, health care practitioners can grow their capacity to provide high-quality care and the resilience to be there when their patients need them.
The commodification of health care has shifted doctors’ focus away from the healing of patients to the bottom line. Clinician burnout is at an all-time high. Attending is the antidote. With compassion and intelligence, Epstein offers a crucial, timely book that shows us how we can restore humanity to medicine, guides us toward a better overall quality of care, and reminds us of what matters most.
“This book is phenomenal, and will be phenomenally useful to physicians and to all of us who are desperately in need of true health care and caring. It is hard for me to imagine a doctor reading it and not immediately recognizing, taking to heart, and implementing its messages in any number of different ways, being so commonsensical, clear, innately transformative, and healing. And it is equally hard for me to imagine that it will not energize all of us, when we find ourselves in the role of ‘the patient,’ to demand greater mindfulness from our care-givers across the board, and know what we mean by that.”
— Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living and Mindfulness for Beginners
“As a student admissions committee member reviewing Ron Epstein's application to medical school, I knew he was special, a view surpassed by his visionary achievements illuminating the important nature of how physicians care for their patients, and how they can best care for themselves. Attending is the book every medical caregiver needs to strengthen their minds and harness their resilience to care for others — and every patient needs to understand how doctors think. This is a work of heart and head, a beautiful synthesis of inner wisdom and hard earned scientific empirical findings that point the way to proven methods for improving the lives of both giver and receiver of medical care. With clear explanations, captivating stories, and well-described challenges and approaches to their solutions, this book is exactly what the field of medicine needs.”
— Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., author of Mind and The Mindful Brain and Executive Director, Mindsight Institute Founding Co-Director, UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
“I recommend Attending for anyone interested in health. In a most accessible way, Epstein makes a very convincing case for how doctors and patients would prosper from doctors becoming more mindful.”
— Ellen Langer, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, author of Mindfulness and Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility
"This powerful and inspiring book opens the pathway to bringing care, wisdom, and mindfulness into practice of medicine. A must-read for all clinicians and for lay readers as well."
— Joan Halifax, PhD, author of Being With Dying
"Ronald Epstein cuts through the cacophony and illuminates the heart of the medical enterprise — the attentive and compassionate connection between doctor and patient. In a world awash with medical error, patient dissatisfaction, and burned-out doctors, this attention to mindfulness is much needed balm. Attending is at once penetrating, counterintuitive, and profoundly humbling."
— Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear
"Attending got my attention from the opening paragraphs. Beautiful, compelling, and wise stories of how medicine and care-taking can be, (should be) when approached with common sense, a fierce sense of what is best for both the doctor and patient, and a compassionate heart. A timely and important book!"
— Marc Lesser, CEO of Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI) and author of Know Yourself, Forget Yourself and LESS: Accomplishing More By Doing Less
"Ronald Epstein truthfully and powerfully describes the challenging and changing worlds of both the physician and and the patient. Attending will encourage the recognition that mindfulness and compassion training contribute to effective medicine. The book clearly demonstrates how these contemplative practices can help enrich the lives of everyone involved in health care."
— Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness and Real Happiness
"Epstein presents for general readers a concise guide to his view of what mindfulness is, its value, and how it is a skill that anyone can work to acquire."
— Library Journal
"A deeply informed and compassionate book...[Dr. Epstein] tells us that it is a 'moral imperative' to do right by our patients. And he shows why and how."
— Lloyd Sederer, New York Journal of Books
“Epstein shows how taking time to pay attention to patients can lead to better outcomes on both sides of the stethoscope. [Attending] should be required reading for physicians, and it is also of vital interest to the patients in their care.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Epstein richly illustrates his arguments with case histories and stories of near mishaps in surgeries. Worthy reading for medical students and practitioners but also applicable to other fields: artists, writers, musicians, teachers et al. can also fall into formulaic ruts and autopilot behavior and need literally to change their minds.”
— Kirkus Reviews