Caring for the caregivers: Evaluation of the effect of an eight-week pilot mindful self-compassion (MSC) training program on nurses’ compassion fatigue and resilience [2018]

Nurses vicariously exposed to the suffering of those in their care are at risk of compassion fatigue. Emerging research suggests that self-compassion interventions may provide protective factors and enhance resilience. This pilot study examined the effect of an eight-week Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) training intervention on nurses’ compassion fatigue and resilience and participants’ lived experience of the effect of the training.

This observational mixed research pilot study adopted an evaluation design framework. It comprised of a single group and evaluated the effects of a pilot MSC intervention by analyzing the pre- and post-change scores in self-compassion, mindfulness, secondary trauma, burnout, compassion satisfaction, and resilience. The sample of the nurses’ (N = 13) written responses to the question, “How did you experience the effect of this pilot MSC training?” were also analyzed.

The Pre- to Post- scores of secondary trauma and burnout declined significantly and were negatively associated with self-compassion (r = -.62, p = .02) (r = -.55, p = .05) and mindfulness (r = -.54, p = .05). (r = -.60, p = .03), respectively. Resilience and compassion satisfaction scores increased. All variables demonstrated a large effect size: Mean (M) Cohen’s d = 1.23. The qualitative emergent themes corroborated the quantitative findings and expanded the understanding about how MSC on the job practices enhanced nurses’ coping.

This is the first study to examine the effect of a pilot (MSC) training program on nurses’ compassion fatigue and resilience in this new area of research. It provides some preliminary empirical evidence in support of the theorized benefits of self-compassion training for nurses. However, further research, such as a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) with a larger sample size and a longitudinal study, is required to see if the benefits of self-compassion training are sustainable.

Martin C. Delaney
PLOS ONE, November 21, 2018