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Heightening levels of compassion towards self and others through use of compassionate mind training

02 November 2016
Volume 24 · Issue 11



A continued absence of strategies that promote self-care puts midwives at risk of experiencing symptoms of stress, empathic distress fatigue, burnout, and compassion fatigue, all of which can affect midwives' performance and the level of compassion they show to others.


The objective of this paper is to outline a possible education strategy for student midwives that has the potential to affect the level of compassion that the individual can show both to him/herself and others in times of suffering.

Suggested approach:

Compassionate mind training (CMT) has been found to be beneficial in clinical populations with individuals who report symptoms of primary trauma, low levels of self-compassion, and who are self-critical. Student midwives bear witness to the traumas of others, so it is important to consider an intervention to help student midwives who may experience symptoms of secondary trauma, self-criticism, or low levels of self-compassion while in training.


Incorporating CMT into undergraduate midwifery degree programmes may help student midwives become sensitive to their own suffering, and could potentially help them cope with emotional demands, placement anxieties and organisational pressures.

Sustaining compassion across long periods of time is an essential part of a midwife's role, with stress experienced from continual exposure to traumatic events potentially resulting in emotional fallout. As a consequence, midwives may experience symptoms of empathic distress fatigue (Klimecki and Singer, 2012), compassion fatigue (Sabo, 2006), secondary trauma (Leinweber and Rowe, 2010), and burnout—all of which can have an impact on the level of compassion the individual is able to show towards him/herself and others (Figley, 1995; 2002). Introducing student midwives to interventions that aim to promote self-compassion is, therefore, vital; this may furnish them with some of the coping strategies needed to manage emotional distress. The aim of this article is to explore an intervention designed to increase student midwives' levels of compassion for themselves and reduce levels of self-criticism.

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