Investing in compassion: exploring mindfulness as a strategy to enhance interpersonal relationships in healthcare practice

Sandra Moll, Andrea Frolic, Brenda Key


Healthcare is a human enterprise where provider-patient interactions are a critical part of the therapeutic process. Unfortunately many healthcare providers are at risk of burnout or compassion fatigue that can detract from quality care. Mindfulness-based interventions have proven efficacy for reducing stress among healthcare workers, but there is limited evidence regarding its impact on interpersonal communication. The purpose of this mixed-methods, non-randomized intervention study was to track the inter-personal impact of a nine-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program on healthcare employees in two large hospitals. Pre and post group surveys were completed by 125 participants, tracking changes in empathy and symptoms of burnout, as well as gathering feedback about the program. Focus groups were also conducted with a sample of 12 participants one year later to explore their impressions of the sustained impact of the program. Analysis of the survey data indicated a significant increase in both cognitive and emotional dimensions of empathy, as well as significant decrease in the indicators of burnout. Many participants described an increased ability to listen mindfully to others, and that they were more tolerant and compassionate, with less emotional reactivity and better skills in managing conflict. Focus group participants indicated that they were able to integrate and apply principles of mindfulness into their day-to-day communications both within and outside of work. The findings provide a compelling argument for the value of mindfulness in not only building resilience, but enhancing communication in the context of healthcare work.

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Journal of Hospital Administration

ISSN 1927-6990(Print)   ISSN 1927-7008(Online)

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