Mindfulness, self-compassion, and empathy among health care professionals: a review of the literature

J Health Care Chaplain. 2014;20(3):95-108. doi: 10.1080/08854726.2014.913876.


The relationship between mindfulness and self-compassion is explored in the health care literature, with a corollary emphasis on reducing stress in health care workers and providing compassionate patient care. Health care professionals are particularly vulnerable to stress overload and compassion fatigue due to an emotionally exhausting environment. Compassion fatigue among caregivers in turn has been associated with less effective delivery of care. Having compassion for others entails self-compassion. In Kristin Neff's research, self-compassion includes self-kindness, a sense of common humanity, and mindfulness. Both mindfulness and self-compassion involve promoting an attitude of curiosity and nonjudgment towards one's experiences. Research suggests that mindfulness interventions, particularly those with an added lovingkindness component, have the potential to increase self-compassion among health care workers. Enhancing focus on developing self-compassion using MBSR and other mindfulness interventions for health care workers holds promise for reducing perceived stress and increasing effectiveness of clinical care.

Keywords: clinician self-care; health care professionals' well-being; mindfulness; mindfulness-based stress reduction; self-compassion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Empathy*
  • Fatigue
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mindfulness*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Self Concept*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control