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Curricula and methods for physician compassion training: protocol for a systematic review
  1. Sundip Patel1,
  2. Alexis Pelletier-Bui1,
  3. Stephanie Smith1,
  4. Michael B Roberts2,
  5. Hope J Kilgannon1,
  6. Stephen Trzeciak3,4,
  7. Brian W Roberts1,4
  1. 1 Department of Emergency Medicine, Cooper University Hospital, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, New Jersey, USA
  2. 2 Department of Psychiatry, Cooper University Hospital, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, New Jersey, USA
  3. 3 Department of Medicine, Cooper University Hospital, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, New Jersey, USA
  4. 4 Center for Humanism, Cooper University Hospital, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, New Jersey, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Brian W Roberts; roberts-brian-w{at}


Introduction Compassionate patient care has been associated with improved clinical outcomes for patients. However, current evidence suggests that healthcare is experiencing a compassion crisis, with physicians frequently overlooking opportunities to treat patients with compassion. Although there is evidence that compassionate care can be enhanced through training interventions, it is currently unclear what specific skills and behaviours ought to be taught and how best to transfer this information to the learner. The objectives of this systematic review are to collate the world’s literature on compassion training to determine (1) the specific skills and behaviours that should be taught (curriculum), and (2) the methods of training that are most effective at improving compassionate patient care.

Methods and analysis We will perform a qualitative systematic review of studies aimed at improving compassionate patient care among physicians and physicians in training. We will comprehensively search CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL. Additional recommended techniques for systematic reviews of complex evidence will be performed including pursuing selected ‘references of references’, electronic citation tracking and consulting experts in the field. Two investigators will independently review all search results. After identification and inclusion of papers, we will use a standardised form for data extraction. We will use tables to describe the study populations, interventions tested (including specific skill/behaviours taught and training methods used), outcome measures and effects of interventions on outcome measures compared with control groups. Where appropriate, meta-analysis will be used for quantitative analysis of the data.

Ethics and dissemination The proposed systematic review does not require ethical approval since no individual patient-level data will be collected. Results of this study will contribute to the understanding of compassion training and help inform the development of compassion training curricula.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42018095040.

  • compassion training
  • empathy
  • systematic review

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  • Contributors All authors have made substantial contributions to this paper. BWR supervised all aspects of the study design and takes responsibility for the paper as a whole. SP, AP-B, SS, MBR, HJK, ST and BWR contributed to the development of the selection criteria, the risk of bias assessment strategy and data extraction criteria. MBR, ST and BWR developed the search strategy. BWR provided statistical expertise. SP and BWR drafted the manuscript. SP, AP-B, SS, MBR, HJK, ST and BWR read and contributed substantially to revision of the final manuscript. All authors approved the manuscript in its final form.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval This is a systematic review of completed studies and thus no ethical approval will be required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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