Posted 01.24.2019 | by AMRA

Between 30-70% of physicians suffer from work-related burnout. Physician burnout is associated with higher medical error rates, poorer physician-patient communication, and increased physician substance abuse and suicide. Medical professionals are interested in developing ways to reduce burnout, including the implementation resilience curricula in medical schools.

Kemper et al. [Academic Medicine] surveyed pediatric residents to assess the rate of burnout during residency, and determine whether the traits of mindfulness and self-compassion served as protection against burnout..

A cohort of 872 pediatric residents serving at 31 different residency sites (72% female; 73% Caucasian; average age = 29 years) completed an online questionnaire in the spring of 2016 and again in the spring of 2017. The questionnaires measured burnout, perceived stress, confidence in their ability to provide compassionate care, mindfulness (the Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale-Revised), and self-compassion. The burnout measure assessed emotional exhaustion (e.g., “I feel emotionally drained from my work”) and compassion fatigue (e.g., “I feel I treat some patients as if they were impersonal objects”).

The researchers looked at the stability of measures over time, the cross-sectional correlations between measures within each year, and the ability of 2016 mindfulness and self-compassion scores to predict 2017 burnout, stress, and confidence in being able to deliver compassionate care.

The results showed that 48% of the residents suffered from burnout in the spring of 2016 and again in the spring of 2017. In 2016, mindfulness significantly correlated positively with self-compassion (.61) and confidence in providing compassionate care (.37) and negatively with perceived stress (-.59) and burnout (-.44).

Self-Compassion significantly correlated positively with confidence in providing compassionate care (.29) and negatively with perceived stress (-.49) and burnout (-.38). Correlation magnitudes were essentially the same in 2017.

After controlling for 2016 burnout, self-compassion significantly predicted reduced 2017 burnout. Each additional point on the 2016 self-compassion scale was associated with a 6% decrease in the 2017 likelihood of burning out. Controlling for 2016 perceived stress, mindfulness and self-compassion both significantly predicted lower 2017 stress levels.

Controlling for 2016 confidence in providing compassionate care, mindfulness and self-compassion both significantly predicted higher 2017 levels in confidence in providing compassionate care.

The results demonstrate that nearly half of all pediatric residents suffer from burnout. Self-compassion and mindfulness promote resilience by reducing stress and burnout, and increasing confidence in treating patients compassionately.

The study provides a rationale for including mindfulness and self-compassion training in medical school curricula. The study’s strengths include its large and representative sample and its predictive use of mindfulness measures.


Kemper, K. J., McClafferty, H., Wilson, P. M., Serwint, J. R., Batra, M., Mahan, J. D., . . . Schwartz, A. (2018). Do mindfulness and self-compassion predict burnout in pediatric residents. Academic Medicine.

[Link to abstract]