Compassion is the beneficial response of an individual to the sufferings and difficulties of others. Self-compassion refers to feelings of concern an individual feel towards oneself. Both may serve as potential buffers in a hospital setting where caregivers attending to patients in critical condition experience emotional distress, which may lead to burnout. However, the unique contribution of compassion, both to self and others, to the decrease of burnout is unclear.
In the present study, we recruited 109 professional caregivers working in a hospital’s intensive care and rehabilitative units. We explored a theoretically driven mediation model in which the relationship between compassion for self and others and burnout is mediated by different basic psychological needs, detailed in the self-determination theory.
Results indicated that self-compassion and concern for others were associated with reduced levels of burnout. Each of these buffers against burnout was mediated by a unique psychological need, thereby supporting a three-layered model of (a) compassion and self-compassion, (b) basic psychological needs, and (c) burnout.
Our study highlights compassion and self-compassion as potential resilience factors against the challenge of burnout in healthcare. It points to promising avenues for preemptive clinical interventions.