Staff burnout and lack of compassionate care in the NHS have been frequently highlighted in the press, in part due to the current emphasis in NHS policy on improving compassionate care and staff wellbeing. However, despite this media attention, the relationships between compassion, burnout and self-care remain under researched.
Specifically, this study aimed to investigate the associations between burnout, compassion for others, self-compassion and self-care. This study also aimed to explore the ways in which staff practise self-care.
205 NHS staff who deliver psychological interventions completed an online survey. Associations between burnout, compassion for others, self-compassion and self-care satisfaction were measured quantitatively, through the use of three questionnaires: 1) the Maslach Burnout Inventory Human Services Survey, 2) the Compassion for Others Scale and 3) the Self-Compassion Scale, and a rating of satisfaction with their current level of self-care. Qualitative content analysis of open-ended responses was used to explore the ways in which the staff practised self-care.
This study found a negative relationship between burnout and self-compassion, compassion for others and self-care satisfaction. Positive relationships between compassion for others, self-compassion and self-care satisfaction were also found. Participants cited a wide range of physical, psychological, social and professional self-care activities. Two-thirds of participants reported being satisfied with their self-care.
This study provides preliminary support for theories suggesting that self-compassion and self-care may reduce staff burnout and improve compassion for others. The compassionate mind approach was presented as a useful framework for formulating and addressing compassion, burnout and self-care in NHS staff.
Compassionate mind training (Gilbert, 2009) may be a suitable intervention and a form of staff self-care that could potentially reduce burnout and increase compassion for oneself and others.