Compassion Training: The Missing Link in Healthcare Education?

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Kirsten Deleo
Angela Anderson
Crystal Cullerton-Sen


Compassion is an essential skill in whole person care. But, can it be cultivated through training?

Current research in neuroscience elucidates the mechanisms of empathy and compassion and provides a new framework for professional education. It suggests that clinical detachment is neither effective for ensuring good care, nor a realistic strategy to prevent burnout. Cultivating compassion on the other hand, increases non-judgmental awareness, builds resilience, and enables us to respond more effectively to others’ needs with greater empathy (Frickson, 2008, Klimecki, 2102, Lutz, 2004). Moreover, it is a skill we can learn (Wasner et al, 2005, Lutz 2009). Despite these findings, however, training in compassion is largely absent in current professional curricula.

Presenters will review current findings on compassion and its benefits, and demonstrate how we can train in it using examples from two unique compassion skills-training curricula: (1) a training for pediatric residents working in an inner-city hospital and (2) a certificate program in contemplative end-of-life care for hospice/palliative care workers. 

These models are inspired by the contemplative tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, with its long-standing and effective methodologies for deepening the human capacity for compassion. This approach has formed the basis of many scientific studies on compassion and the emerging field of contemplative-based, secular training models (Lutz, 2009). Participants engage in contemplations on compassion as well as mindfulness and meditation. The aim is to support clinicians to generate self-compassion - the foundation for building resilience and extending compassionate care – thereby improving communication and the overall quality of care.

The workshop will introduce key principles, feature hands-on experience of selected methods, and include a discussion of the potential impact on the greater healthcare system.

A wider implementation of compassion training promises to be the missing link for building a fulfilling clinical practice and strengthening our capacity to provide effective whole-person care.

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How to Cite
Deleo, K., Anderson, A., & Cullerton-Sen, C. (2014). Compassion Training: The Missing Link in Healthcare Education?. The International Journal of Whole Person Care, 1(1).
Congress 2013

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