Chapter 5 — CLaims & Ratings
Overall: This chapter highlights the benefits and limitations of empathy in the context of caregiving, with a focus on medical settings. The majority of claims rest on well-documented, rigorous research, including large-scale randomized control trials and meta-analyses, though one claim is also the subject of some debate.
Claim 5.1: Compassion fatigue is prevalent among caring professions and detrimental to them.
The idea that being in caring professions can lead to an exhaustion in regards to displaying care and compassion for others is well documented, as are the detrimental effects associated with compassion fatigue.
Claim 5.2: Provider empathy has salutary consequences for patient outcomes.
A growing body of evidence is detailing that provider empathy influences patient outcomes - including health outcomes and response to treatment, satisfaction, and adherence.
Claim 5.3: For healthcare professionals, empathy has pitfalls.
The findings around this claim are mixed: Evidence suggests empathy can produce negative consequences for medical professionals—including burnout, distress, and reduced provider efficacy—but other research suggests empathy can protect against burnout and increase provider efficacy. As described in the chapter, this likely hinges on the type of empathy (distress versus concern) caregivers experience.
Claim 5.4: Social support buffers against burnout.
Research suggests that social support is associated with reduced burnout in a range of settings, including healthcare, education, social work, and athletics. While the majority of studies investigating the relationship between social support and burnout are correlational due to their assessment in real-world settings, both the quantity and quality of literature on this topic indicate that this claim is well supported.
Claim 5.5: Mindfulness reduces burnout for caregivers
There are a number of well-controlled, well-documented studies, and several large-scale meta-analyses supporting the idea that mindfulness training programs can reduce burnout for healthcare providers.
Claim 5.6: Mindfulness increases caregiver empathy.
Although central to caregiving, few studies examining the effects of mindfulness training for healthcare providers specifically measure empathy as an outcome. However, there are a small number of well-conducted studies and at least one meta-analysis suggesting that mindfulness training programs and practices do increase empathy in healthcare professionals.