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13-08-2016 | ORIGINAL PAPER | Uitgave 2/2017

Mindfulness 2/2017

Increasing Compassion in Medical Decision-Making: Can a Brief Mindfulness Intervention Help?

Mindfulness > Uitgave 2/2017
Antonio T. Fernando, Katherine Skinner, Nathan S. Consedine


Compassion is an essential component of medical practice but is difficult to sustain over time. This problem is increasingly recognized in medical curricula. Mindfulness-based interventions have the potential to enhance compassion in medicine but this has not yet been tested. This study evaluated whether a brief mindfulness induction increased compassionate responding to difficult patients among medical students and assessed whether trait self-compassion moderated the impact of this experimental manipulation. A sample of 83 medical students completed baseline questionnaires including trait self-compassion prior to a laboratory session. In the laboratory, participants were gender block-randomized to mindfulness or control conditions before completing tasks assessing compassionate behaviour and decision-making in difficult patient vignettes. Finally, a covert behavioural measure allowed direct observation of responses to a request for help. The induction elicited mindfulness as intended and equivalently at both high and low levels of self-compassion. ANCOVAs showed that mindfulness predicted greater patient “liking” and “caring” but only among persons lower in self-compassion. The mindfulness intervention predicted greater helping behaviour, but primarily among those with higher self-compassion. A brief mindfulness induction showed some promise in enhancing compassionate responses and behaviour among medical students. Mindfulness training may offer a means of sustaining and enhancing compassion among some medical professionals but further research is needed.

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