Application of a mindfulness program among healthcare professionals in an intensive care unit: Effect on burnout, empathy and self-compassion

Med Intensiva. 2019 May;43(4):207-216. doi: 10.1016/j.medin.2018.02.005. Epub 2018 Mar 12.
[Article in English, Spanish]


Objective: To evaluate the effect of a mindfulness training program on the levels of burnout, mindfulness, empathy and self-compassion among healthcare professionals in an Intensive Care Unit of a tertiary hospital.

Design: A longitudinal study with an intrasubject pre-post intervention design was carried out.

Setting: Intensive Care Unit of a tertiary hospital.

Participants: A total of 32 subjects (physicians, nurses and nursing assistants) participated in the study.

Intervention: A clinical session/workshop was held on the practice of mindfulness and its usefulness. The possibility of following an 8-week training program with specifically designed short guided practices supported by a virtual community based on a WhatsApp group was offered. A weekly proposal in audio and text format and daily reminders with stimulating messages of practice were sent.

Main measurements: Various psychometric measures were self-reported: burnout (MBI), mindfulness (FFMQ), empathy (Jefferson) and self-compassion (SCS), before and after the training program. Demographic and workplace variables were also compiled.

Results: Among the factors affecting burnout, the level of emotional exhaustion decreased (-3.78 points; P=.012), mindfulness levels measured by the FFMQ were not globally modified, though "observation" and "non-reacting" factors increased. Empathy was not modified, and self-compassion levels increased (3.7 points; P=.001). Satisfaction and program adherence levels were very high.

Conclusions: In the population described, this program showed a decrease in emotional exhaustion and an increase in self-compassion -these being factors that can produce well-being and exert a positive impact upon burnout in this vulnerable group.

Keywords: Atención plena; Burnout; Conciencia plena; Critical care; Desgaste profesional; Health care professionals; Medicina intensiva; Mindfulness; Profesionales sanitarios.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / therapy*
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Program Evaluation