Health care professionals have elevated rates of burnout and compassion fatigue which are correlated with poorer quality of life and patient care, and inversely correlated with self-compassion. Primary studies have evaluated the extent to which mindfulness-based interventions increase self-compassion with contradictory findings. A meta-analytic review of the literature was conducted to quantitatively synthesize the effects of mindfulness-based interventions on self-compassion among health care professionals.
Twenty-eight treatment outcome studies were identified eligible for inclusion. Five cumulative effect sizes were calculated using random-effects models to evaluate differences of changes in self-compassion for treatment and control groups. Within and between group comparisons were evaluated. Sub-group and moderator analyses were conducted to explore potential moderating variables.
Twenty-seven articles ( k = 29, N = 1020) were utilized in the pre-post-treatment meta-analysis. Fifteen samples (52%) included health care professionals and fourteen (48%) professional health care students. Results showed a moderate effect size between pre-post-treatment comparisons ( g = .61, 95% CI = .47 to .76) for self-compassion and a strong effect size for pre-treatment to follow-up ( g = .76, 95% CI = .41 to 1.12). The effect size comparing post-treatment versus post-control was moderate. One exploratory moderator analysis was significant, with stronger effects for interventions with a retreat component.
Findings suggest mindfulness-based interventions improve self-compassion in health care professionals. Additionally, a variety of mindfulness-based programs may be useful for employees and trainees. Future studies with rigorous methodology evaluating effects on self-compassion and patient care from mindfulness-based interventions are warranted to extend findings and explore moderators.