Posted 09.19.2016 | by AMRA
Physician compassion is a key element in good doctor-patient relationships. Nevertheless, nearly 50% of doctors and patients feel that medical care is often insufficiently compassionate. Between 20-70% of physicians suffer from compassion fatigue, a state of emotional exhaustion and diminished empathy brought on by the unceasing demands of patient care. As a consequence, medical educators are interested in finding ways to enhance compassion in medical students who are in training to become future physicians.
Fernando et al. [Mindfulness] tested whether a set of audio-guided mindfulness exercises could increase medical students’ compassionate behaviors, and whether the exercises had differential effects depending on the students’ self-compassion levels.
The researchers recruited 83 medical students (54% female, average age=21) for what they were told was a study of “emotional and clinical decision making.” The students completed a self-report measure of self-compassion, a personality disposition that involves self-kindness, recognition of one’s common humanity, and mindful awareness.
The students were then randomly assigned to listen to 10-minute audio recordings of either experiential mindfulness exercises or a speech on civic service. The mindfulness recording included an explanation of mindfulness and exercises involving mindfulness of the breath and of emotions. The students completed the Toronto Mindfulness Scale (TMS) after hearing the recordings.
Participants were then presented with a series of hypothetical clinical scenarios involving interactions with “difficult” patients. Participants rated how much they liked, wanted to help, and felt caring towards the patients, and their degree of subjective closeness to them. They also decided how much consultation time to allot to each of the patients. After being told the study was finished, the research assistant requested participants to help with an unrelated administrative task. […]